Our betting editor Paul Gough completes his look at the group stage at Euro 2012, with England, France, Sweden and the Ukraine making up Group D
At first glance, everything appears to be against England when it comes to assessing the last of the four groups at the European Championships beginning on Friday in Poland and Ukraine - Group D.
England normally heads into any major football championship as one of the most hyped teams, always surrounding talk that this will finally be the tournament where The Three Lions win their first major tournament since their one and only success, at the 1966 World Cup.
But that is not the case heading into Euro 2012, with England not even favourites at Luxbet to win Group D, where they have been drawn alongside France, Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.
To qualify out of the group for the quarter-finals, France is at $1.44, England at $1.60, the Ukraine at $2.25 and Sweden at $2.65.
And it is not hard to see why England are not favourites to win the group and why they only sit on the equal-fifth line of betting with Portugal at $15 to win the tournament at Luxbet, with France fourth favourites at $10 behind Spain $3.60, Germany $3.90 and the Netherlands at $7.
England not only have a new manager in Roy Hodgson, who has had just three weeks and two friendlies [unconvincing 1-0 wins over Norway and Belgium] to get his team ready for Euro 2012, but they have also been decimated by injury.
|England to finish top Group D at Euro 2012 at $2.85 at Luxbet
||Take the England (1st)-France (2nd) exacta in Group C at $5.25 at Luxbet|
From the initial squad, Hodgson has already lost key midfielders Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard as well as central defender Gary Cahill, who was then replaced by Liverpool's one-cap right-back Martin Kelly.
And what does it say about the strength of the England squad when there are more players from Liverpool [six] in the squad than any other team, even though the Reds could only finish eighth in the EPL this season ‑ their equal worst season since 1954.
But the biggest blow to England's hopes was the suspension handed down to star striker Wayne Rooney in the final round of qualifying, which will see him miss the first two matches of Euro 2012.
The fact those matches are against England's two toughest rivals in the group in Sweden and France just makes their task that much tougher, considering they have not beaten the latter in any of their past five encounters and only recorded their first win over the former in 13 matches dating back to 1968 last November.
But it would be just like England ‑ after years of failing under high expectations ‑ to recover and perform at Euro 2012 when they are being all but written off as serious contenders.
One thing in England's favour is they have been lucky enough to have been drawn in a weak group, with the Ukraine ranked a distant 50 in the world and not considered a threat, while France and Sweden appear to be two teams in decline.
France have been miserable in their past two major tournaments since finishing runner-up in the 2006 World Cup to Italy, and bowed out in the group stages without winning a game at both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Sweden, which at 17 are ranked a place lower than France on FIFA's official world rankings and some ten spots behind England, did not even qualify for the 2010 World Cup and went out in the group stages of Euro 2008.
The do not appear to have the depth of either France or England, despite England's injury woes, and will rely heavily on captain and superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
So in what is a difficult group to assess we still fancy France and England to qualify from this group and - after years of being under the odds at major tournaments - the Three Lions actually look value at $2.85 to win the group, while the England-France exacta is paying $5.25 at Luxbet.