The Punter: No Rooney makes England's Euro 2012 odds poor value
England face a long hard road in qualifying for the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 next summer. Talk of easy groups and groups of death are meaningless.
Yes, they have avoided Spain and Germany but anyone who thinks Fabio Capello's boys are set to cruise into the last eight, are barking up the wrong tree.
They may qualify but that's a risky bet and odds of 1-2 to reach the knock-out stages, should not be considered. Equally, a price of 9-5 to top Group D is not for the taking.
And the fact that Capello has incredibly insisted in staying in Poland and making long journeys to Donetsk and Kiev for the first three matches, does not help the English cause.
England always find Sweden hard to deal with, Ukraine as host nation, won't be easy while France are on the up and have the quality to emerge top which makes 2-1 a decent bet, especially as they'll face England minus Wayne Rooney.
Like England, France had a poor World Cup in South Africa to say the least, but under Laurent Blanc, French fortunes have changed.
France, because of that dreadful World Cup, were in Pot 4 for the draw and were the one team Capelllo did not want. Under Blanc, France have gone 17 matches without defeat including wins over Brazil and England. A fit French squad could actually go close to taking the trophy and at 14-1, are worth an each-way bet (1/2 the odds to reach the final). As for that opening fixture, France are a stonking 15-8 to beat England who are unworthy favourites at 5-4.
Just think, no Rooney to score for England but the French will have in-form Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema at full throttle.
And what of the Republic of Ireland's chances especially with Giovanni Trapattoni facing Italy.
Pundits have been quick to write off Irish hopes but that’s foolish for a team that does not conceded many goals — clean sheets in their last 11.
They may not have any star players, but under the Italian, they are an efficient outfit who'll be hard to breakdown.
With Spain also in their group, it's highly unlikely the Republic come out on top but a price of 12-5 for three points against Croatia, is tempting which makes 5-1 to qualify attractive in the knowledge that they've not much to fear from the Italians who were held to a scoreless draw at Windsor Park.
But who will be the outright winners? Germany at 7-2 must be supported and they are nailed on at 11-8 to head Group B ahead of Holland, Portugal and Denmark.
If they are group winners, they'll face the runners-up of Group A, likely to be Poland and Czech Republic for a place in the semis.
The Germans have their best chance since triumphing in 1996, having come through their qualifying group with a 100% record and able to call upon top strikers Mario Gomez, Miroslav Klos and highly talented teenager Mario Gotze who has Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Arsenal all chasing him.
To win Euro 2012: 5-2 Spain; 7-2 Germany; 8-1 Holland; 10-1 England; 14-1 France; 16-1 Italy; 22-1 Russia; 25-1 Portugal; 50-1 Ukraine, Croatia; 66-1 Czech Republic, Poland; 70-1 Greece; 80-1 Sweden; 100-1 Ireland and Denmark
Leading goalscorer: 7-1 Mario Gomez, David Villa; 10-1 Robin van Persie; 12-1 Miroslav Klose, Cristiano Ronaldo; 16-1 Fernando Torres, Mario Balotelli, Cesc Fabregas, Giampaolo Pazzini, 20-1 Fernando Llorente, Lukas Podolski, Thomus Muller, Klaas-Jan Hunterlaar, Alberto Gilardino, Hugo Almeida; 25-1 Darren Bent.
Ireland's group points: 3-1 none; 5-2 one; 8-1 two; 3-1 three; 6-1 four; 22-1 five; 12-1 six; 33-1 seven; 66-1 nine.
England's group points: 33-1 none; 16-1 one; 14-1 two; 7-1 three; 7-2 four; 8-1 five; 7-2 six; 100-30 seven; 6-1 nine.