Euro 2012 is arguably the toughest International tournament to win, with the highest average FIFA ranking of all International tournaments. 16 of Europe’s best will compete from this week to win Euro 2012. 

Before we analyse the favourites, let’s look at some interesting stats of the squads. Here is a comparison of the experience/age ratio. That is, the ratio of the average number of caps per player in each squad with the average age of the squad. Its not a ratio of squad quality or depth, but still a decent indicator of how ready a squad is to do well in a major championship.

Experience/Age Ratio

This throws up some interesting observations, the foremost being why Spain is considered such favourites. Average age of 26.8 suggests that players are at peak of their careers, and yet they have the most experienced squad at the Euro’s – 43 caps per squad player! These players have played a lot together, and that’s their biggest strength. This healthy mix of experience and age suggests that Spain is at the peak of its powers. Or maybe just beyond that peak, I guess we will get an answer at Euro 2012. 

Holland have almost the same experience, with a lightly higher age – so they are also one of the favourites. Euro 2012 probably represents the last chance for this generation of Dutch players to win this competition. Their stars will not be there in Euro 2014.  

Now look at Germany, who have the youngest squad at Euro 2012 with an average age of 24.5, and yet have a lot of International experience in those young legs. This is a healthy sign of an improving squad for the future. But that we have known for a while. A healthy experience of 33 caps per player suggests that perhaps this German project is finally ready to win something.

Italy’s squad on the other hand, shows clear signs of a squad in transition. They have brought down their average age from 30+ in 2010 to 27 in Euro 2012, but have lost most of their experienced players in the process. Infact, if you take out Buffon, the average age of Italy’s squad falls below 17! The reason for this is simple. Italy ignored its youth for many years under previous regimes (Lippi & Donadoni), and continued to player their World Champions for far too long. Which meant that a whole generation of Italian players, many in the current squad, have relatively less experience despite their age.  Prandelli has finally brought about the much needed revolution, but most of these players are International novices, and Euro 2012 is perhaps going to end up as a learning curve for this generation. 

England’s squad shows a similar transition, even though to a lesser extent. A healthy average age (26) but with relatively less experience than is usually needed to win such competitions (26 caps per player). It’s a squad which is moving away from the failed “Golden Generation” of English players. Hodgson's real work starts after Euro 2012. I expect the average number of caps (and perhaps even age) to fall considerably. 

Bookies Favourites

Lets keep these stats aside for the moment, and take a look at what the Bookies think. Here are the latest betting odds for the champions from BetVictor, which are more or less similar to others:

Country Odds
1 Spain 2.5
2 Germany 3
3 Netherlands 5.5
4 France 10
5 England 12
6 Italy 16
7 Portugal 20
8 Russia 20
9 Poland 50
10 Ukraine 50
11 Sweden 50
12 Croatia 60
13 Czech Republic 66
14 Greece 80
15 Denmark 100
16 Republic Of Ireland 100

No surprises in the top 3, Spain, Germany and Holland are the favourites to win this championship.  I question France at 10-1 odds at 4th, which is probably down to their recent unbeaten run. But they have the worst Experience to Age ratio, and while they have shown improved results under Blanc, I suspect that their relative International inexperience will be their downfall this summer. In my opinion, this is the worst bet to make (que for the footballing God’s to play a cruel joke and make France win, just to make me look like a fool). 

But that said, the trend is clear. Spain, Germany and Holland are favourites, while Italy, England and France are other contenders. 

My money is on Holland at 11-2, those look like decent odds (also because BetVictor promises to give my money back if Spain win!). If I have to take a punt on the bottom half of that table, I like the odds on Sweden (50-1).  Its an experienced squad which can cause upsets, and I am willing to bet they will surprise England or France to make it out of that group. 

Poll Results

So I asked the followers of footballspeak.com on Twitter, who do they think will win Euro 2012. I got 107 responses, and here are the results: 

Germany seemed the people's favorite, with over 29% votes, followed by Spain at 23.4% and Holland at 20.6%. So the top 3 favorites confirm themselves again. England seem to get an enthusiastic response (12.1%), as did Italy (7.5%), but it is quite clear that not many are looking beyond the 3 big favorites.  

Predictions 

Which leads us nicely into Group predictions, which is never easy at an Euro. But in this Euro 2012, making predictions seem even more difficult that usual. Let me have a go anyway, if for nothing else but to give you something to laugh about shortly: 

Group A: Czech Republic, Greece, Poland (co-host) and Russia

My money is on co-hosts Poland and the re-emerging talents of the Czech Republic to make it out of this evenly contested group. Poland have some interesting talents in their team to take full advantage of playing at home. The Czechs with players like Rocisky and Necid could be the East European dark horse for the tournament. I know most people predict Russia to easily make it out of this group, which the might due to their defensive superiority, but I think this Group will throw surprised, and my bet is on Poland and Czech Republic.  

Group B: Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Portugal

The Group of Death has potentially two of the favourites to win the event. And while Portugal and Denmark are strong enough to have been favourites to qualify had they been placed in the easier Group A, I don’t think they have enough to upset these European powerhouses. Germany and Holland to make it through. 

Group C: Croatia, Italy, Republic of Ireland and Spain

Again I will go with the traditional favourites. Spain should have no trouble making it through this group. This transitional Italy will have problems, specially with their leaky defence which is under more pressure with injuries to the two experienced CBs (Chiellini & Barzagli). Not to mention the distraction of the betting scandal at home. Croatia could potentially take advantage of these factors, but I guess Italy are a safer bet to finish second in this group - they have a knack of coming together for major tournaments. So its Spain & Italy for me. 

Group D: England, France, Sweden and Ukraine (co-host)

This Group is tougher to call than it looks. France come into this tournament with a 21 game unbeaten run, while England are speaking the same language under new coach Hodgson. However, I think Sweden are a wild card here, and if one of these two counters falter, they will take full advantage. I am going to go against the conventional wisdom, and predict England and Sweden through from here. 

My Quarter Finalists

Now let me commit another “blogger’s error” by predicting a potential quarterfinal line up of this rather unpredictable event, at the risk of looking silly in a few weeks. 

  1. Poland vs Holland
  2. Spain vs Sweden
  3. Germany vs Czech Republic
  4. England vs Italy

That last game will make my month (and we know who Capello will be supporting!). I am now open to your counter-attacks on my analysis & prredictions, fire away.... 

 

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