How England became joint-favourites for Euro 2020
Expert Alan Alger charts England's journey from Euro 2016 failure to joint-favourites to win Euro 2020.
Gareth Southgate had the unenviable task of whittling down his provisional 33-man England squad down to a final 26 this week.
The Three Lions boss, a big fan of analytics, no doubt crunched some final numbers to give his side the best chance of lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy on 11 July.
And our traders here at Betway believe that chance to be a very good one, placing Southgate’s side at level-pegging with World Cup winners France in the current market.
We can’t dispute the quality running through Les Bleus' line-up, with strength in depth across all positions. So why should England ending 55 years of hurt be priced up identically?
Before we answer that question we must cast our minds back to 4 December 2009.
On the morning of the draw for the 2010 World Cup, I gave a very confident interview on BBC Radio to proudly claim that long gone are the days of bookmakers pricing England at short prices to win tournaments just because people would back them anyway.
Patriotic punters had suffered a bad deal for years, but now a much more global online betting market had ensured that England would be available at the ‘right’ price.
Cue a draw that evening in Cape Town, hosted by Charlize Theron, where England were pitted against Algeria, Slovenia and the United States in the group stages. The Sun, playing fast and loose with a derogatory term for our friends across the pond, displayed the acrostic E-A-S-Y on the front page.
That ‘E-A-S-Y’ headline certainly prompted a wave of cash that saw England's price shorten again.
The theory that a global online betting market would stop this was a sound one, though.
More countries are betting into the market, therefore a few patriotic Euros from, say, a Spanish or German punter would offset the tenner taken on the Three Lions from England fans. Throw in some FIFA Rankings for a sense check and the market should be just about spot on.
In 2018, though, some overseas punters equally liked England’s chances and were topping up that cash. Gareth Southgate’s team reaching the semi-finals in Russia reinforced the worldwide view that the country that invented the game weren't far away from a first success since 1966.
Markets for major football tournaments are turned around every four years. As soon as the final whistle blows in a Euros or World Cup final then the prices for the next competition appear.
By the time the first ball is kicked in this year’s continental tournament, the market will have had an extra year to add to the normal four-year shelf life.
The first price for England was a relatively modest 9/1. The market surfaced in July 2016 just as Portugal were being crowned champions of Europe and England were licking their wounds after Iceland got the better of Roy’s Boys.
The usual football phone-ins declared this as England’s most embarrassing moment and they probably weren’t that far from the truth. With the Iceland game fresh in their minds, punters weren’t the slightest bit interested in backing their boys for Euro 2020 glory, even though whoever came in as new boss would have the benefit of home advantage for a handful of games and certainly the final if he made it that far.
The shortage of high-profile candidates keen on the job further worsened the mood of the country. After Sam Allardyce was removed from the job after 67 days, Under-21 boss Southgate eventually took on the job.
Topping the World Cup qualifying group for a trip to Russia prompted a small price cut for Euro 2020 glory further down the line, though, with England showing at 8/1.
By 11 July and the extra-time defeat to Mario Mandzukic’s winner, pride had definitely been restored and a price of 13/2 to be successful at Wembley in July 2020 seemed more than realistic.
France lifted the World Cup with every right to be favourites to go back-to-back as they did in 1998 and 2000. Yet still the money came for England, who fell into 11/2 after their first win in Spain for 31 years in October 2018.
Going into 2020 with their price heading the right way, it looked as if the Three Lions were destined to stay in first or second position in the market, although a torn thigh for World Cup Golden Boot winner Harry Kane on the second day of the year caused a slight drift to 6/1 as everyone worked out if he could be fit and firing in just five months having ruptured a thigh muscle.
News of Kane’s recovery from injury was overshadowed by world events and the eventual postponement of the tournament until this year.
England got off to a slow start as international football resumed, with revenge over world No. 1 team Belgium in a 2-1 win followed by 1-0 defeat to Denmark in October to keep the price at 6/1.
But Southgate led his side to four consecutive victories coming into the summer, prompting a cut to 5/1 and a FIFA ranking of fourth, behind Belgium and France in first and second.
A combination of partial home advantage and having all but two teams ahead of them on ranking points is why England are into 5/1 to make history at Wembley on July 11.
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