UEFA Euro 2024 Picks: Group Stage Analysis & Futures Best Bets

UEFA Euro 2024 Picks: Group Stage Analysis & Futures Best Bets

This article is part of our Soccer Picks series.

UEFA Euro 2024 kick off Friday with Group A favorite Germany hosting underdog Scotland in Munich. France and England are priced as the likely tournament winners. As England manager Gareth Southgate pointed out, the odds market heavily juices the host nation pricing; ergo Germany, with a soft start against unfancied Scotland, seem expected to perform only at group stage and fade as the competition stiffens. Considering England's 1-0 friendly loss to Iceland and an unclear first XI, France are the more formidable squad to beat of the two visiting frontrunners.

That said, Belgium and Portugal have relatively easy routes out of their respective groups, whilst 2020 finalists Spain and Italy ought to be able to advance together from theirs. With the exception of Belgium, whose golden generation have yet to deliver on their potential, all of these teams are capable of stopping either England or France and would be favored against Germany. Moreover, group stage analysis may suggest that one or more long shots have the ability to perform above the level indicated by their starting tournament futures prices.

England +350France +350Germany +550
Portugal +700Spain +800Italy +1600

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Group A

Germany -270Switzerland +500
Hungary +650Scotland +1000

In what has historically been one of the higher scoring ties, Germany will face Scotland on Friday. The Jocks have proved themselves capable of scoring anywhere in qualification and, faced with a formidable trio of opponents in Germany, Hungary and Switzerland, cannot afford to choose their battles.

Dismissing Scotland out of hand may be rather facile as Germany have conceded goals at home in each of their last nine home matches except the scoreless draw against Ukraine. There is a non-trivial outcome wherein Scotland view Germany, with their porous defense, as more vulnerable than either Switzerland or Hungary, and are able to secure at least a point. All a first leg stumble would require is a little hubris on Germany's part in order to underperform expectations, which are much higher than preparatory form would otherwise indicate. 

Expect the Scots to score at least one goal off the counter and Germany to achieve a 2-1 or 2-2 result in an encounter where the range of outcomes is unusually high for a tournament opener.

The Germans' next opponent will be in-form Hungary, who have beaten Die Mannschaft home and away in recent competitions. This tie will offer one of the more appetizing form-based value bets for recent history to repeat, as long as the Dominik Szoboszlai and Roland Sallai partnership continues to produce. On the other hand, a shock result in the opener may also waken Julian Nagelsmann from a blissful reverie of easy victory. In any event, Germany is priced to win their first two matches with confidence, when in fact it is an untenable betting proposition at the price, as obtaining more than a draw against Hungary next week is far from a foregone conclusion.

Hungary and Switzerland have the luxury of knowing the first result. Whilst this may affect tactics in the second half of the Saturday morning match, Hungary are unbeaten as nominal hosts in more than 10 fixtures and have not lost a competitive home match since a defeat to Italy in 2022. This begs the question of why Switzerland are favored to win at Cologne in the odds market.

In any event, it's difficult to imagine Hungary losing outright to the Swiss, and equally difficult to expect Switzerland to really go for three points unless Scotland have done the unthinkable and beaten Germany. Being as xGC is even, baseline expectation should be 1-1. The Magyars, however, have the greater incentive combined with scoring form to achieve a 2-1 victory.

EURO 2024 BEST BETS FOR GROUP A

  • Germany v Scotland Total Goals > 2.5 @ 1.68
  • Scotland Team Goals > 0.5 / Germany Clean Sheet NO @ 1.95:1
  • Hungary Team Goals > 1.5 @ 3.3:1
  • Team to Reach Quarter Finals: Hungary @ 3.75:1

Group A Forecast

  • Hungary 1st/Germany 2nd @ 13:1

Group B

Spain -145Italy +225
Croatia +450Albania +2200

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This group contains both 2020 semi-finalists Spain and reigning champions, Italy along with perennial over-achievers Croatia, and hapless Albania. Italy defeated Spain on penalties in 2021 and both teams have deeper benches combined with more scoring potential this outing. A repeat of the last semifinal or either of the two facing France is far from impossible, as long as both Spain and Italy play Croatia with caution.

Spain will face Croatia in the first Group B fixture Saturday in Berlin. As there will be no home advantage and the Croats are never to be underestimated, this opening group fixture augurs more for a cautious draw than any other possibility. The preponderant range of outcomes is largely subsumed by the correct-score subset: {0-0, 1-0, 1-1} with 1-1 appealing for a neutral venue. 

La Rioja have the luxury of playing Albania in their final group match, which will incline them not to take unnecessary risks against a Croatian side with five consecutive wins, home and away. Those seeking to back Spain to reach the finals ought to wait for this result to affect futures pricing before participating.

Italy will face Albania at Signal Iduna Park. Whilst Italy have tended to dispatch Slavic nations 1-0 or 2-0 with relative ease, unless it is Macedonia, l'Azzuri face a conundrum in their opener. If all three favored Group B teams plan to draw against each other, then goal difference versus Albania will be crucial. Putting game theory aside, the low-scoring expectations are grounded in statistical rigor. Italy's rolling xG of 1.8 also lends itself to a maximal bound of 2-0 or 2-1, if the circumstances are disregarded. 

Under the bright lights of one of Europe's biggest arenas (81,000 capacity) and faced with the two toughest matches in the back stretch, Italy need to take more risk than the statistical means subsume and stretch for a three-goal victory. Any win for Italy will result in tournament futures odds contracting, but a two- or three-goal margin will exacerbate the move dramatically (not that Spain are incapable of a 5-0 thrashing of Albania, but that is two events down the line). 

There is no reason at this point to expect the outcome of the Spain and Italy meeting to be anything other than a draw, save the usual caveats of penalties, red cards and/or heteroskedastic set of outcomes in the run up.

GROUP B BEST BETS FOR UEFA EURO 2024

  • Spain v Croatia DRAW @ 3.45:1
  • Italy -1.25 ACHP @ 1.9:1
  • Team to Reach Final: Italy @ 7:1
  • Team to Reach Quarter Finals: Italy @ 2:1

Group B Forecast

  • Italy 1st/Spain 2nd @ 4.3:1

Group C

England -250Denmark +400
Serbia +750Slovenia +1200

If all games were played on paper, this group would be easy. Unfortunately for Southgate and England fans alike, England's away performances have been uninspiring, especially against Slavic nations; 1-1 to Macedonia; 1-1 to Ukraine; 1-1 to Poland. Purely on xG, England are projected to win 2-1.

There are 305,000 Serbian nationals in Germany and more of Serbian descent. Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic and Dusan Tadic are all in fine goal-scoring form, meaning a clean sheet for Jordan Pickford seems all but out of the question. Yet another 1-1 is almost fated, though nobody would be too surprised at Serbia scoring two goals. Serbia may not be a fantastic betting proposition, but England at current odds are not worth backing.

Slovenia will play nominal host to Denmark on Sunday. Denmark have a 67-percent away win ratio and are priced exactly in line. However, it should be noted that both teams tend to play more defensively away from home. Slovenia are also undefeated in their last five matches, most notably beating Portugal 2-0. A low-scoring draw is by far the most likely outcome this early in the tournament, but with Benjamin Sesko and Sandi Lovric likely to feature prominently in attack, and Jan Oblak in goal, Slovenia are far better value than their pricing suggests.

England should have a turgid encounter with Denmark on Thursday, wherein two very similar teams (in terms of playing style) are likely to draw. The Danes will fancy their chances more against the open style of Serbia and will only attack England if they have lost to Slovenia.

Of all the brackets at this stage, Group C looks to be the one where all four teams may hold fire until their third match. Winning the group is more open than it first appears and at least one of the favorites may be left behind.

BEST BETS FOR GROUP C

  • Serbia v England CRS: 1-1 @ 6.5:1
  • Serbia Team Total Goals > 0.5 @ 1.76
  • Betting any nation other than England to win Group C is excellent value: Slovenia is 13:1

Group C Forecast

  • Denmark 1st/England 2nd @ 8:1

Group D

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France -200Netherlands +275
Austria +800Poland +1200

This group has by far the most predictable set of outcomes but begins with the least predictable encounter when the Netherlands meet Poland on Sunday. One could not be blamed for expecting a low-scoring affair, except that both teams have been scoring goals of late. This is as close to a home fixture as Poland can enjoy outside the motherland. Having thumped both Turkey and Ukraine in the run up, it is possible Poland may break their run of 2-1 defeats to the Dutch and snatch an upset, however a 'both teams to score' draw is better supported by long-term statistics. The Oranje probably go on to victory over Austria as they are best at trading goals and lose or tie France.

Austria meet France on Monday and enjoy a slightly more favorable expected goals conceded. This is essentially a home game for Austria and they did manage a 1-1 result in 2022. It is unclear how Austria will stop Kylian Mbappe, other than to try to outscore the French. There is a reasonable chance of a draw, but such an outcome is unlikely to impact the tournament futures much as France have an impeccable record against both Poland and the Netherlands.

EURO 2024 GROUP D BEST BETS

  • Poland v Netherlands BTTS @ 2.05
  • Team Tournament Futures: France @ 4.5:1

Group D Forecast

  • France 1st/Netherlands 2nd @ 2.65:1

Group E

Belgium -225Ukraine +400
Romania +700Slovakia +950

Belgium are such chronic underperformers relative to their ability and FIFA ranking that it's hard to get completely behind them as favorites, yet it is equally as hard to dismiss their obvious talent. Fortunately, they have one of the softest groups. Neither Romania nor Slovakia ought to pose a threat to the Red Devils. Ukraine, however, have that certain je ne c'est quoi of a team on a moral rather than a sporting mission, and elicit support from all over Europe. There are approximately 250,000 Ukrainians in Germany and the German public will indubitably support Ukraine second only to Die Mannschaft.

Romania face Ukraine on Monday and are unlikely to have much joy, having failed to score against both Lichtenstein and Bulgaria. Their opponents, led by Viktor Tsygankov and Artem Dovbyk, arrive having vanquished Romanian cousins, Moldova 4-0 and will be crowd favourites. Romania lack the firepower to score multiple goals and the Ukrainians have both momentum and a need to win convincingly before meeting Belgium. Expect Ukraine to capitalize on their vastly superior conversion rate (15 percent to 10) to secure a 2-1 or 2-0 victory.

An all-star Belgium meet Slovakia on Monday and will endeavour to keep their run of clean sheets going, which will be no mean feat against a squad who just scored three against Portugal. Slovakia are possibly better than their pricing implies but are drawn disadvantageously. As they have recently demonstrated, the squad are highly capable of scoring goals once they go behind. Belgium are projected to win 1-0 or 2-0, but if the scoring opens early, Slovakia could claw one back

EURO 2024 GROUP E BEST BETS

  • Winning Margin: Belgium to win by one goal @ 3.1:1
  • Team Tournament Futures: Belgium Winner @ 17:1

Group E Forecast

  • Belgium 1st/Ukraine 2nd @ 3.25:1

Group F

Portugal -250Turkey +400
Czechia +600Georgia +1800

Turkey kick off the last group against Georgia and are being kept slightly safer than the Czech Republic due to perceptions of an easy start, whereas the Czechs are under the gun against group favourite Portugal. However, both these sides concede goals and this is arguably a pick 'em match except that Georgia are far more clinical, enjoying almost double the conversion rate in qualifiers.

Turkey are unlikely to live up to their odds whereas Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's side can certainly outperform Armenia, who secured a 1-1 draw away to the hosts. Georgia look capable of a win and indeed beating Turkey is their best chance at progressing.

Portugal vs. Czechia will be the last match of Matchday 1 and promises the most goals with Portugal riding an xG above three.

Portugal won their last meeting 4-0 and all that has changed is that Portugal have greater attacking depth but are conceding more late goals. Bayer Leverkusen strikers Patrik Schick and Adam Hlozek will want to ensure a goal of honour. Expect a 3-1 or 4-1 result with few surprises (unless Diogo Costa keeps a clean sheet).

Portugal are one of the few teams who genuinely seem likely to win all their group stage matches. Conversely, Turkey may lose all three, despite being tipped to finish second. Czechia are outshooting Turkey and will need to secure points from that match on June 26.

GROUP F BEST BETTING PICKS FOR EURO 2024

  • Game Parlay: Portugal Win and > 3.5 G @ 3.65:1
  • Team to Win All Group Stage Matches: Portugal @ 3.1:1
  • Team to Lose All Group Stage Matches: Turkey @ 17:1
  • Team to Finish Bottom of Group: Turkey @ 5:1

Group F Forecast

  • Portugal 1st/Czech Republic 2nd @ 4:1
  • Best Team Futures Value Before Kick-off: Italy @ 17:1
  • Group Stage Winner Parlay:  France (1.5) X Portugal (1.4) @ 1.75:1

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven Vinik
Former investment banker and university lecturer. Current sportsman and passionate about the beautiful game of soccer and the metrics of sporting excellence.
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