THERE WAS A TIME in every pub quiz that the question master invariably set the question: “Name two famous Belgians?” and the answers came back as the cyclist Eddy Merckx followed closely by the fictional detective Hercule Poirot!
Not so now!
This summer will see the birth of a great football team that will win the European Championships, that is BELGIUM at an unbelievable industry-wide 12/1 with most of the High Street firms. Why?
Quite simply they have a squad that is littered with international experience, one which is quite prevelant in the Premier League and a support base which will be massive especially as they just have to go over the border and invade France, in much the same way as the Netherlands used to. Let’s look at their squad and think about how many of these players would get into a European select XI, or certainly your Premiership starting squad. You have Vincent Kompany, Kevin de Bruyne, a focused Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Toby Alderweireld, Mousa Dembélé to name but half a dozen; plus the likes of Ovigi of Liverpool, Mirallas of Everton and Courtois of Chelsea. Their time has come and they are my confident prediction at 12/1.
As always I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket and savers should be made on the tournament hosts, France at 7/2 and interestingly enough for those who like to back long odds a la Leicester, Austria at 40/1.
There are numerous other markets open to the punter on Euro 16 which the bookmakers expect to be their highest revenue event of the year, and in those markets I would suggest the following.
In the market on which group will ultimately win the competition I would advocate Group E at 6 /1. This wins if either Belgium, Italy or to a lesser extent Sweden win the tournament but it does give you the extra insurance of another one of Europe’s elite powers winning at odds of roughly half for the Belgium backers.
And finally - and this is borne out by recent football major competitions in that the winners of the competition also often contain the leading goalscorer for that competition - so for small stakes I would advocate the following:
There is no market for Austria’s leading goalscorer and Austria to win!
This event will see the cream of European football compete on an international stage, and even though some players represent countries with little chance of success they can still lay down a mark, so in the top goalscorer market I again would advocate an interest on Robert Lewandowski at 16/1.
Away from football, May sees the French Open at Roland-Garros beginning on May 16. Time was that this was a benefit for Rafael Nadal who was (and still is) irrepressible on clay. But time moves on and although 3/1 sounds a good price, and although I think he is great box office on clay, it doesn’t strike me as a fantastic price. Nor does Novak Djokovic at a shade of odds-on, for what is not his best surface. So where does the value lie? One player who is steadily climbing the rankings and who has had some notable scalps in recent weeks is the Japanese KEI NISHIKORI who is available around the 25/1 mark for Paris. Again stakes should be tempered until the draw is made (we certainly don’t want him in the same half as Djokovic and Nadal), but he is certainly worth an interest.
However in the womens, the betting is much more open and worth an interest. With Serena’s powers maybe waning and on the surface that she doesn’t totally dominate, I can see an upset. My first selection is last year’s Wimbledon sensation GARBINE MUGURUZA at 14/1. It won’t be long before she wins a Grand Slam and the French might just be the one. I would also advocate an interest on last year’s losing French Open finalist in LUCIE
SAFAROVA at 50/1. They are my two against the field.
And so to some winners which hopefully you have backed. In March I advised backing the top run scorer in the T20 World Cup as Virat Kohli at 12/1 and he duly obliged. Also I hope you were on Nico Rosberg for the World Drivers’ Championship at 11/4. After winning the first three races he is now odds-on favourite. There is a long way to go but Rosberg remains in pole position.