Euro 2020 team specials: Look to Netherlands for goals and Wales to fire blanks

Memphis Depay an co can make hay in relatively simple group, while goal-shy Welsh could rival Slovakia for lowest scorers.

Best bets

Netherlands to be the highest scoring team at 13/2 (Sky Bet, Unibet)

Slovakia to be the lowest scoring team at 9/1 (general)

Wales to be the lowest scoring team at 12/1 (general)

Finland to concede the most goals at 7/1 (Unibet)

Germany to concede the most goals at 30/1 (Unibet)

North Macedonia to receive the most cards at 33/1 (Unibet)

Denmark to be eliminated on penalties at 9/1 (bet365, William Hill)

Over 181.5 tournament yellow cards at 5/6 (Sky Bet)

Highest scoring team

Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring for France during Euro 2016
Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring for France during Euro 2016

Market history

2016 - 13 France (RU) - 4 in group stage

2012 - 12 Spain (W) - 6 in group stage

2008 - 12 Spain (W) - 8 in group stage

2004 - 10 Czech Republic (SF) - 7 in GS; England (QF) - 8 in group stage

2000 - 13 Netherlands (SF) - 7 in group stage; France (W) - 7 in group stage

1996 - 10 Germany (W) - 5 in group stage

  • In the five 16-team tournaments (1996 to 2012), it always took between 10 and 13 goals to win this market.
  • With 24 teams (and a potential extra game, which they did play), France top-scored in a low-scoring tournament with 13 in 2016.
  • Every team to have won this market since 1996, bar one, has reached the semi-finals.
  • Four of the six tournament winners in the study period have also topped this market (one jointly).
  • The average number of goals required to win the market has been 11.7, a figure you'd expect to rise given the recent expansion.
  • In five of the six tournaments, at least half the market winner's goals have been scored in the group stage. Joint-winners England scored 80% of their total in the group stage in 2004.

Verdict

History suggests we need to side with a team which will make the last four so it's the top teams in the outright market we're really considering here.

A weak group draw would also be helpful given a good percentage of the market winners' goals have been scored prior to the knockout stage (see above).

There are seven teams between 5/1 and 8/1 so it looks a very competitive market.

I'm not sure Group F is going to be full of goals with it containing GermanyFrance and Portugal. While they could all go deep, they may be left playing catch up in this market and I can leave all alone.

I'm also happy to swerve England given there's a real chance they won't make it past the last 16 - if they win the group they will play one of the teams from Group F.

Spain haven't convinced this season and haven't settled on a centre forward which says something about their attack.

A weak group could mean goals for Romelu Lukaku
A weak group could mean goals for Romelu Lukaku

That leaves Netherlands and Belgium, both of whom tick the box for a weak group and both boast proven international goalscorers in Memphis Depay and Romelu Lukaku.

Of the two, the Dutch look to have that easier group and while they are a very short price to win it, it's not hard to envisage them being dominant against UkraineAustria and North Macedonia.

Should they finish top, the draw could well fall kindly again with one of the third-placed teams following in the last 16 and then either the Group A or B runner-up in the quarter-finals.

This season they've scored twice in matches against fellow finalists ScotlandTurkey and Poland and have also found the net in draws with Spain and Italy.

Since the World Cup they've also scored 11 goals in four games against Germany, put two past world champions France in Rotterdam and held top-ranked Belgium to a 1-1 draw in Brussels.

13/2 looks a fair price here.

Denmark are the first of the outsiders at 33/1.

If you've read my outright preview, you'll know I believe they could put together a good run at this tournament but if they do they will likely grind their way to success rather than demolishing teams.

I simply can't see a long shot winning this market so the Dutch are the bet at 6/1.

Lowest scoring team

Sean St Ledger celebrates scoring Republic of Ireland's only goal in Euro 2012
Sean St Ledger celebrates scoring Republic of Ireland's only goal in Euro 2012

Market history

2016 - 0 Ukraine (group)

2012 - 1 Republic of Ireland (group)

2008 - 1 Romania, Austria, Poland, Greece, France (all group)

2004 - 1 Bulgaria, Latvia, Switzerland (all group)

2000 - 0 Denmark (group)

1996 - 0 Turkey (group)

  • The lowest scorers have always gone out in the group stage.
  • Three times the market has been won by a team scoring no goals at all.
  • At all six tournaments in the study period, it has taken fewer than two goals to win.
  • The average number of goals required to win has been 0.5.

Verdict

We're almost certainly looking for a team who will finish bottom of their group here.

It's no surprise to see Hungary as favourites given they have to play world champions France, European champions Portugal and Germany.

They scored only eight goals in eight games in their qualifying group and this season bagged just seven in six Nations League matches.

What they will have on their side, though, is a capacity crowd in Budapest for those games against France and Portugal and we've seen the effect home advantage can have in tournament soccer in the past.

I'll take them on and instead back a couple of bigger pieces in the shape of Slovakia and Wales.

The Slovaks, who face Poland, Sweden and Spain, look among the weaker sides at this tournament.

They struggled for goals in qualifying, netting only 13 in eight group games. They reached this stage via the play-offs but scored only twice in their two matches, one of which came in extra time.

In this season's Nations League, they managed just five in six games, while World Cup qualifying began with four goals in three matches, which included a goalless draw with Cyprus.

And only this week they've fought out low-scoring friendly draws with Bulgaria (1-1) and Austria (0-0).

Slovakia's Marek Hamsik has been plying his trade in China with Dalian Pro
Slovakia's Marek Hamsik has been plying his trade in China with Dalian Pro

Essentially they don't have a truly threatening goalscorer in their ranks, while a lot is still expected from Marek Hamsik in terms of creativity.

Only recently replaced as Napoli's all-time leading scorer, Hamsik has been playing in China and Sweden for the past couple of years. He's not the force he once was.

I can back Slovakia at 9/1.

As for Wales, they come up against Italy, who have kept 20 clean sheets in their last 27 games, Switzerland and Turkey, who boasted the joint-best defence in qualifying, conceding only three times.

That's not good news for a goal-shy attack - Wales scored only 10 times in their qualifying group, the least of the automatic qualifiers. They've played eight competitive games since and scored nine goals.

They are still heavily reliant - too reliant - on Gareth Bale, whose form isn't at the level it has been in the past.

With other leading players, such as Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, having struggled with injuries, it's fair to say they don't look as strong as the team which performed so well at Euro 2016.

They struggled to create in pre-event friendlies with France and Albania (no goals were scored) and now face some tough travelling with two games in Baku and one in Rome.

In short, they also look worth a punt at 12/1 in this market.

To concede the most goals

Market history

2016 - 9 Iceland (QF)

2012 - 9 Republic of Ireland (group)

2008 - 9 Turkey (SF)

2004 - 9 Bulgaria (group)

2000 - 13 Yugoslavia (QF)

1996 - 8 Czech Republic (RU) & Russia (group)

  • The market winners have exited at almost every stage - from the groups to the final itself. Only teams exiting in the last 16 (which only came into existence in 2016) have failed to win.
  • Three of the seven teams to have won this market have been eliminated in the group stage, four went out in the knockout stage.
  • Despite playing the maximum number of games, the champions have not won this market since the Finals expanded beyond eight teams.
  • The average number of goals required to win has been 9.5.

Verdict

There's less to be learned from the history books in this market which has been won by teams going deep and thus playing loads of games and by sides who have simply been blown away and made an early exit in the group stage.

My approach is to take one from the top of the market and another at a much bigger price.

I'll start with second favourites Finland, a side who conceded 10 goals in qualifying. Of the teams who finished in a top-two position, only Czech Republic let in more.

Worryingly for the debutants, they struggled on the road, conceding two in Italy and Greece, plus four in Bosnia.

The draw hasn't been particularly kind to them with the world's number one ranked side Belgium in their group, along with dark horses Denmark and World Cup quarter-finalists Russia.

Critics will point out they actually did pretty well in the Nations League but keeping clean sheets against Ireland and Bulgaria (as they finished second in their group to Wales) isn't quite the same as what they'll face in the coming fortnight.

In fact, look deeper and across this season they've played seven fellow Euros qualifiers and conceded a total of 15 goals in those matches - an average of more than two per game.

They'll probably need to do worse than that to win this market but with away games in Copenhagen and St Petersburg in store, plus a meeting with the Belgians, that's not unrealistic.

From further down the market, Germany look worthy of some loose change at the very least given their 30/1 quote.

Die Mannschaft have far from put their problems of the 2018 World Cup behind them - they arrive here having lost 2-1 at home to North Macedonia in their last competitive fixture.

Before that came a disastrous Nations League campaign, one which saw them concede a whopping 13 goals in six games. Spain smashed six past them, while even Switzerland managed three.

Turkey also scored three times against the Germans in a friendly.

It's no wonder boss Joachim Low doesn't seem to know who to play at the back - there's been much discussion at home about who should line up in defence with the full-back areas of particular concern.

They are in the group of death where they will face games against both France and Portugal, who arguably boast the two best attacks in the tournament.

Germany boss Joachim Low has plenty to ponder
Germany boss Joachim Low has plenty to ponder

If the Germans have another bad day - and they've had plenty in the past three years - things could get messy.

There's even a perfect scenario which involves Germany losing both opening games before beating Hungary and going through as one of the best third-placed sides.

If that happens they could easily come up against another big gun in the last 16.

I'm really not keen on Germany at Euro 2020 and they have to be worth backing at the price in this market.

To receive the most cards

Market history

2016 - 18 Italy (QF) - 3.4 per game

2012 - 16 Italy (RU) - 2.67 p/g

2008 - 15 Turkey (SF) - 3.0 p/g

2004 - 18 Greece (W) - 3.0 p/g

2000 - 13 Netherlands, Portugal (both SF) - 2.5 p/g

1996 - 18 Czech Republic (RU) - 3.00 p/g

Verdict

Every winner of this market has played at least five games so in theory, you want to get with a team who will at least make the quarter-finals.

However, I'm going to take a different approach with a 33/1 shot - hear me out.

North Macedonia were comfortably the dirtiest team in qualifying, collecting 35 yellow cards - no other side received 30 - and one red.

Visar Musliu receives a red card for a North Macedonia side who are no strangers to the referee's notebook
Visar Musliu receives a red card for a North Macedonia side who are no strangers to the referee's notebook

They've also been keeping referees busy in the Nations League and 14 of their last 21 competitive games have seen them handed 30+ booking points (that's 10 for a yellow and 25 for a red).

Of course, it's generally regarded as easier to pick up cards in tight, competitive games and a problem their backers could face in this tournament is that they are outclassed and end up stepping off teams in a bid to defend and keep the scorelines low.

However, I'm not convinced they will be battered in a group containing Netherlands, Ukraine and Austria - indeed I made a case in my Group C preview for them to qualify for the last 16.

In any case, their recent games against fellow qualifiers have seen the cards keep flowing - four against Austria, six against Poland and three against Germany.

If they can keep going at that rate - and scrape through into the knockout stage - they'll have a chance of winning this.

Maybe it's too much to ask but I'm pretty sure the Macedonians shouldn't be 33/1.

It's worth noting that Unibet, who offer the market, count a straight red as two cards and a double-yellow red as three.

To be eliminated on penalties

Denmark are my long shots to go all the way at Euro 2020 but clearly there are other teams with a much greater chance of reaching the final.

However, I certainly think they will put up a good fight against any side at this tournament and, as at the 2018 World Cup, it may need a penalty shootout to eliminate them.

Ignoring a game affected by a player strike in which they were forced to play a bunch of lower-league players, the Danes have lost only two of their last 47 matches (prior to a shootout). Both were at the hands of Belgium, currently the world's top-ranked side.

During that run, they've avoided defeat against both World Cup finalists, France and Croatia, as well as Germany and England, who they beat at Wembley earlier this season.

With three home games to kick off the tournament, Denmark should have enough to qualify from a group containing Belgium, Russia and Finland.

If, as the odds suggest, they finish second in that section, they'll likely play Switzerland or Turkey in the last 16 with Netherlands a strong possibility in the quarter-finals.

Either of those encounters has the potential to be tight and I do feel there's value to be had in their price of 9/1.

Total tournament yellow cards

This may not really be a 'team' bet but it's one I like and it's getting housed in this preview!

Sky Bet have their over/under line for yellow cards set at 181.5 so a total of 182 bookings will be needed to land a profit and that averages out at 3.57 per game.

At Euro 2016, the first such tournament to be played in the current 24-team format, the average was 4.02 with 205 yellows shown.

Given the lowest average at the last six stagings of the European Championships has been 3.9 (which in the current format would lead to a total of 199 across 51 games), the line appears to have been set too low.

Here are those yellow card stats from previous Euros in full:

2016 - 205 (4.02 per game)

2012 - 123 (ave 3.97)

2008 - 121 (ave 3.9)

2004 - 156 (ave 5.03)

2000 - 122 (ave 3.93)

1996 - 153 (ave 4.94)

Having hit around 4.0 consistently in the last three tournaments, I see no reason why the total figure should drop off significantly.

Argentine referee Fernando Rapallini
Argentine referee Fernando Rapallini

With the exception of Argentina's Fernando Rapallini, whose presence surely only boosts the chances of cards given how regularly they are produced in South America, the referees are all European and will be used to taking charge of a lot of these players in the Champions League and Europa League.

Don't expect a sudden surge - or the opposite - as you sometimes get at a World Cup when referees are suddenly exposed to different brands of soccer.

Key officials who will take charge of knockout games, such as Antonio Mateu Lahoz, Bjorn Kuipers and Clement Turpin, all have decent card figures and there aren't too many in the pool you'd consider especially lenient.

For anyone backing this, it's worth noting that second yellows won't be counted towards the total.