Group D kicks of in Donetsk on June 11th, and looks impossible to call. Pitting two flops from the last World Cup – England and France – against host nation Ukraine and the ever dangerous coupon-busters Sweden, means that form and fortune will count for much. But with plenty of world-renowned attacking talent in its midst, can the Golden Boot winner emerge from this most unpredictable of line-ups?
England: 2.80 to win the group; 1.55 to reach the last 16; and 12.50 to win the tournament.
At this stage, with newly appointed boss Roy Hodgson yet to outline his intentions, we don’t even know who’s likely to fill the striker berths in England’s 23-man squad, let alone who will start the first couple of games in the absence of suspended talisman WAYNE ROONEY. Peter Crouch and Andy Carroll are both showing significant late-season form, while Bobby Zamora could be a surprise inclusion given his previous association with the manager during their time at Fulham.
There is a market for Rooney, who, at 30.00 is a fair price, but a punt on him would essentially be relying on England going all the way to the final. I have no doubt the 26-year-old will come out all guns blazing and make a huge impact in England’s third group game against Ukraine, and seeing as most Golden Boots are won with six goals or less, I wouldn’t put it past the man who has so far scored 28 goals for the Three Lions.
At 100.00, another man worth considering as an outside bet is JERMAIN DEFOE. So often the poacher supreme, Defoe’s chances at Spurs this term have been limited, but his eye for goal cannot be questioned and he has a knack of pouncing when his country needs it most. If selected in the first two games, I could see him building up momentum going into the knockout rounds.
France: 2.60 to win the group; 1.45 to reach the last 16; and 11.00 to win the tournament
You have to feel sorry for Real Madrid’s KAREM BENZEMA. I mean, in most situations the 24-year-old’s haul of 31 goals in his club’s 2011/12 La Liga title march this term would’ve been deemed nothing short of sensational. But at Real, it pretty much pales into insignificance in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo’s superhuman scoring feats.
That said, evidently Benzema’s form is none too shabby, and he’ll relish the opportunity to assume the role of main man in Laurent Blanc’s rejuvenated Les Blues side. With that in mind, his price of 20.00 could prove decent value, with the likes of Ribery, Ben Arfa and Cabaye threading balls into his path.
Sweden: 6.00 to win the group; 2.50 to reach the last 16; and 65.00 to win the tournament
The Swedes have a history of causing upsets at major championships, particularly against England. Their current clan are very much in the mould of previous generations - disciplined, physical and tidy. What's more they're spearheaded inevitably by their tall, enigmatic, egotistic captain ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC,. who will thrive on the service of Sunderland's Sebastian Larson, former Championship Manager legend Kim Kallstrom and exciting young star Rasmus Elm.
This is the first season in eight that Zlatan has not won a league title, Milan having thrown the Scudetto away when the going got tough. Nevertheless, his 28 in 31 since signing for the Rossoneri last summer is telling evidence of his innate – and very current – ability to find the net. At 50.00 for the Golden Boot, he’s decent value, notwithstanding the chance that Sweden may not qualify out of the group. But if they do, it’ll be the self-important striker from Stockholm who’ll be responsible and his tally of 29 in 75 for Sweden is above average for a mid-ranked international side. Hardly renown for his diplomacy, if Sweden were to struggle, Zlatan will get frustrated, and it's worth noting he's 5.00 to receive a red card during the tournament.
One man who probably won’t be responsible for Sweden progressing is JOHAN ELMANDER. His Bosman transfer from Bolton to Galatasaray last summer has gone moderately well, heeding a ratio of one every three games in Istanbul. Meanwhile, his 200.00 price looks tempting. But 16 in 63 for Sweden is below average, and I can’t see him making an impact at all.
Ukraine: 6.00 to win the group; 2.50 to reach the last 16; and 50.00 to win the tournament
Hosts Ukraine are still relying on the diluted powers of the once great ANDRIY SHEVCHENKO, who will captain them on home turf and stands at 75.00 for the Golden Boot.
After three baron years at Chelsea and on loan at AC Milan, the 35-year-old’s return to Dynamo Kyiv has served assomething of a renaissance, with a revived strike rate of a goal every other game since returning home in 2009. He’s kept his international record up also – a healthy 46 goals makes him the country’s all-time top scorer and he’s publicly stated his intentions for one last hurrah in his homeland this summer.
Likely to line up alongside the veteran is his strike partner at club level: the man from Minsk ARTEM MILEVSKY. A functional second striker, he has a decent scoring record for Dynamo Kyiv, but has notched just 7 in 43 for the Ukraine, and seems a long shot, even at the reasonable price of 75.00.