Now’s time to bet Euro 2020 futures

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In excavating Euro 2020 futures odds for investment value, I nearly bought into Croatia, at 25-1 odds, for the tournament that has been pandemic-delayed until June 2021.

It reached the World Cup finale two years ago in Russia, where it lost to France, and was one of five squads to blast through Euro 2020 qualifying’s group stages without a defeat.

A solid résumé. However, Croatia looked pathetic in a 4-1 defeat to Portugal on Saturday in the Nations League. The site was Porto, Portugal, but the home side’s all-world Cristiano Ronaldo was home nursing a foot issue.

I had even pondered Poland, at 100-1, due to Robert Lewandowski, who had led everyone with 15 goals in helping Bayern Munich to recent Champions League glory.

Then I tapped C.S., a sharp offshore resource who does this for a living, for a reality check. Croatia and Poland fell to the wayside. It’s the difference between a tourist taking a shot at the lottery and a regular trying to pad the wallet.

“As far as long shots go, I just am not seeing it in a tournament with nations of this caliber,” said C.S. “While (certain long odds) returns look nice, I wouldn’t let them blind you. Too many land mines in front of them.”

Cutting through the murk, brackets and potential matchups, let’s distill an extended Euro 2020 chat down to its most salient points.

The winners of Groups A, B and F (easily the Group of Death, featuring France, Germany and Portugal) are together in the top half of the bracket. This is where cannibalization, says C.S., will occur in the round of 16 and quarterfinals.

Likely B winner Belgium (5-1 odds) will have the luxury of playing its group-stage matches at home, as will Italy, England, Spain and Germany, in a revised coronavirus-protected design.

The Belgians boast Kevin De Bruyne setting up Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard. In Euro qualifying, where it went 10-0 with a 40-3 goal edge, Belgium led everyone with an average of 8.1 shots on target per match.

If that weren’t lethal enough, 28-year-old keeper Thibaut Courtois is at the top of his game. At Real Madrid last season, he led the Big Five with 18 clean sheets. He led La Liga with a save percentage of 78.9%. In Euro qualifying, he allowed 0.14 goals per 90 minutes in seven matches, best in the tournament.

On that half, it’s Belgium.

In the bottom half, the victors of C, D and E will joust. C.S. is shocked that England, in Group D, is the 9-2 tourney favorite, since he has outlined a knockout roadmap of the British playing France or Germany, Spain if it survives.

We are backing 7-1 Holland, of Group C.

“The Netherlands has the most open road in front of them,” said C.S. “From England, Spain, France and Germany, Holland will only need to beat whoever is left from them to make the semifinals.”

C.S. trumpets forward Memphis Depay, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and 31-year-old keeper Jasper Cillessen as Holland’s rudders. If it’s them vs. the Belgians in the finale at Wembley, profit will be assured.

He will consider using those two ducats as hedging leverage only in certain semifinal situations.

“Some people abhor hedging,” he said. “They think it’s stupid. But if you are well managed, it should be a tool in the toolbox, as should certain futures that you can turn into a profit.”

Saturday

Southampton -140 at Crystal Palace: Opted for the spread line, over +141 on the three-way, for Draw insurance. Last season, Southampton was one of only seven Premiership sides to post a positive expected-goals differential (+0.30) on the road. Plus, the Saints have dropped only one of the past six in this series, and they ended ’19-20 with no defeats in their final seven matches; Palace didn’t win any of its final eight. SOUTHAMPTON

Toluca at América, Total 2.5 -125: On the road in the Liga MX Aperutra, 20 goals have been registered in five Toluca matches. Inside its Estadio Azteca, 16 goals have been tallied in América’s four home matches. This, folks, is academic. OVER

Sunday

Brest at Dijon +136: The Pirates have been atrocious in their past four road matches, and they have failed to find the net in six of their past eight away from home. In this series, Dijon has won the past three in its Stade Gaston Gérard by a combined 7-1 score. This three-way number has us salivating. ­DIJON

Last week: 2-1

Season: 5-1

About the Author

Rob Miech

Veteran sportswriter Rob Miech covers soccer and does features for Gaming Today. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. He is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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