Spain are the reigning World and European champions and began their campaign with a draw against Italy, fighting back from a goal down to rescue a point. Their performance was hardly that of tournament favourites but no side has yet stamped their authority on this competition.
Spain controversially started the Italy match without a recognised striker and the packed midfield was always likely to suit the Italians. Having survived that tactical error, Spain will surely approach their remaining group matches in a much more positive manner. Their next opponents are Ireland who crashed to a 3-1 defeat against Croatia and are now rank outsiders for the tournament at 250-1 with most firms. Fernando Torres is expected to start against the Irish and a bold display is anticipated as Spain bid to retain a firm grip on the trophy.
Germany started their Euro campaign with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Portugal thanks to a goal by Mario Gomez. Norway produced the shock of the opening group matches by defeating Holland 1-0 after soaking up almost constant pressure from the Dutch. That defeat left Holland set to face Germany with their European dreams hanging by a thread. The most convincing display of the opening round of matches came from Russia in despatching the Czech Republic 4-1. Bookmakers were sufficiently impressed to cut their odds to 11-1 for the title but they had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Poland in their second match. A draw in their final game would still be enough to book their place in the next round.
France and England shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw to open Group D, a result that puts Ukraine in poll position following a 2-1 win over Sweden. England will have been the happier of the two, despite having gone a goal up in the first half through a header by Lescott. It was England’s only meaningful attack whereas the French had the vast majority of possession without creating clear-cut opportunities. Shevchenko’s double for Ukraine gives the co-hosts a great opportunity to qualify and will ramp up the pressure on England when the two meet in their final group match.
Spain remain 11-4 favourites with Bet365, narrowly ahead of Germany on 3-1. France are now third favourites at 9-1 with Russia in to 11-1.
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