Portugal too big at 20/1 with Ronaldo in the line-up

SPAIN once again go into a major tournament as favourites and victory at Euro 2012 will make them the first- ever European team to win three straight titles. That would be some achievement by a country branded perennial underachievers until four years ago.

Vicente Del Bosque’s men always have to be feared, but the Spanish have had some serious injury problems and both David Villa and Carlos Puyol will be missing. With influential midfielder Xavi also struggling for fitness, it’s going to be a huge task for the champions and this could just be one tournament too far.

Germany are the obvious dangers, with a whole host of top class players, but they are no bigger than 3/1 and that is just too short for me. Yes, we all know how they consistently come alive on the big stage, and at 5/1 they’d be a bet, but I can’t bring myself to back them at the current price.

Netherlands are next on the list at 13/2 and I’m happy to oppose them. The Dutch made it to the World Cup final, but by playing a brand of football that was the polar opposite of what we have all become accustomed to. Robin van Persie is going to be the big hope for the Oranje, but they are in the Group of Death and I actually wouldn’t be surprised if they were packing their bags before the knockout stage.

That brings me nicely on to Portugal, who have been completely overlooked by the bookmakers. Cristiano Ronaldo has had an outstanding season for Real Madrid and he is the only player in world football at the moment who is even close to Lionel Messi. It would be unfair on his Madrid team-mates to say that he single-handedly won them the title, but his contribution has been immense.

It’s true that Portugal’s qualifying campaign was shoddy, to say the least, but the pressure is off and that could result in a better than expected showing. They have to overcome the hardest group by knocking out one of either Germany or Netherlands, but if they do that, their odds will be less than half the current 20/1 that is available.

There will be huge pressure on Ronaldo’s shoulders and teams will set themselves out to try to nullify his threat. However, he has always promised to take a tournament by storm and this could be the time when he shows his true greatness. Either way, you can back Portugal at 20/1 and lay them back on Betfair at a much shorter price if they qualify for the latter stages.

England are 14/1 and even though they’ve got a seemingly easy group, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them fall at the first hurdle. In any case, if they do survive the group stage, it would be a shock if they could progress past the quarter-finals.

The Three Lions’ chief threat in Group D looks to be the 2000 champions, France. They have looked much better in qualifying and manager Laurent Blanc seems to have built up some much-needed team spirit.

There are a number of outstanding creative players in the French team and they will surely score plenty of goals. Karim Benzema has come into his own at Madrid this season, while Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri both have the potential to make game-changing contributions at any point.

I think Les Bleus are definitely worth a saver at 10/1 with Coral and they should sail through the groups so would be happy to buy their outright index (winner = 100 points, runner-up = 75, losing semi-finalist = 50 and losing quarter-finalist = 25) at 32 with Sporting Index.

Italy don’t look good enough at the moment, while although Russia are dangerous, they will find it difficult to get past the quarters. Co-hosts Poland are slightly interesting, as they are in the weakest group and they could easily outrun their pre-tournament odds of 50/1, but I will be sticking with Portugal and France as my two selections.