With little left to bet on in Europe's domestic leagues, our expert turns his attention to a bigger deal in June
This time next month, we’ll be glued to our screens watching Euro 2012, in which plenty of betting myths will be trotted out by people who should know better. Here are some of the main ones to ignore:
The host nation always does well. Let’s nail this one straight away: home advantage is only an advantage if the side is half-decent in the first place.Since the European Championship became an end-of-season tournament of eight teams or more, we’ve had just one home winner: France, in 1984, and they were so good that they reached World Cup semi-finals either side of that triumph. Five other host nations – Italy (1980), West Germany (1988), Sweden (1992), England (1996) and Holland (2000) – have reached the semis, while Portugal (2004) were beaten finalists.
Five of these six sides were at least World Cup semi-finalists on neutral territory two years before or after reaching the European Championship last four. In contrast, hosts Belgium (2000), Switzerland and Austria (2008) all failed to survive the group stage. This merely reflects their status at a global level: in other words, how well hosts do depends quite simply on how good they are. This year’s venue providers, Ukraine and Poland, are middling sides on the international stage, so expect middling performances.
The Euros throws up surprise winners. Denmark famously came off the beach to win against all odds in 1992 and Greece were 150/1 champions in 2004. The media love repeating this, but two surprise winners in eight Euros hardly constitutes a trend. Several other sides have prepared in unorthodox fashion or been long-priced outsiders, but you never hear about them because they went home early.
International football is low-scoring. Definitely one to ignore if you like the under/over 2.5 goals markets. The lowest scoring of the last eight Euros was, in fact, the first, in 1980. Held in Italy, the average goals-per-game count was a mere 1.93. If you were to place the next seven tournaments in order from highest- to lowest-scoring, the list would read: 2000 (2.74 goals per game), 1984 (2.73), 2004 and 2008 (2.48 each), 1988 (2.27), 1992 (2.13) and 1996 (2.06). If anything, international football is becoming higher-scoring. Measures like the back pass rule have kept the goal count up – so don’t listen to anyone who tells you the Euro finals will be tarnished by a series of boring 0-0 draws and 1-0 wins.
Certain teams never win. This is true – until they actually win. Remember when Spain never won anything? For decades they were the one side you could guarantee would flop – until they started winning everything in sight. Before them, it was the Dutch. Defeats in successive 1970s World Cup finals famously made them the ‘nearly men’ of international football, until Marco van Basten inspired their 1988 European Championship victory.
Barren runs don’t end. They will at some point. Even England’s will end one day. There are reasons to oppose Roy Hodgson’s side, but ‘they never win’ isn’t one of them.