Two big hitters of international football collide, yet Group C hasn’t had the billing the presence of Spain and Italy probably deserve.
Don’t forget these sides are the last two winners of the World Cup, and in Spain’s case, the current holders of this competition itself.
Despite this though, it seems all the euphoria and expectation is centring on Germany and Holland, who have been drawn together in Group B, which is being billed as the infamous group of death. Saying that, Spain are still ante-post favourites (11/4 Bwin) to regain their crown and become the first team to do so in this competition whilst the 2006 World Champions Italy, are currently in the midst of rebuilding process with their side and are a general 14/1 shot for success.
They managed to qualify unbeaten in the qualification process but don’t be fooled they had an extremely weak group and may be found wanting at the top level.
Both Spain and Italy will fancy their chances of breezing through the group but you can guarantee the underrated Croatians won’t make it easy for them as will the very well organised Republic of Ireland, who are well marshalled by Italian stalwart gaffer Giovani Trapattoni.
The big hitters in the group meet each other in the opening game of the group on June 10, with the markets favouring the Spanish to prevail against the Italians (5/6). Vincent Del Bosque’s side, despite being one of the most successful international sides of all time, have been very unpopular in the outright win markets with the money being piled on Germany (7/2 Ladbrokes) to an extent that they could actually start the tournament as favourites.
The same seemingly happened at the start of the World Cup last year when the Spanish were on the drift pre-tournament and were deemed dead and buried by many pundits after Switzerland shocked the world by beating them 1-0 in their opening match.
But what is great about the current Spanish culture of football is that they never change their philosophy, even after a defeat. Their silky, intricate way of knocking the ball around the pitch, waiting for the gaps to open, can look tedious at times but they have showed in the last four years that in international knock-out tournaments, their style of play is an absolute nightmare for opposition teams to deal with.
Their most influential players, Xavi and Andreas Iniesta, are still at the height of their powers and there is every reason to suggest that they will continue to do to teams what they have done for the last few years – pass them to death.
As you can probably tell by the positive nature of this Spanish heralding, this writer is very keen on the 11/4 for Spain to become champions once again, but where does the value lie in the group betting? Baring no dramas or an Italian renaissance in their opening game, Spain should go onto win the group but are priced up to do so around the 8/13 and represent no value.
So, it is advisable to look towards the straight forecast market in the quest for finding a bet that could give you a run for your money. Spain/Italy is the favourite in that department at 7/4 (Bodog) but with doubts surrounding what Italian team will show up they can’t be relied on to follow the Spanish home.
Preference is for Republic of Ireland to snatch second behind the Spanish which has been priced up at a tasty looking 23/2 by Bwin.
Trapattoni has plenty of critics for his style of play, picking workhorses such as Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelen instead of some of the younger generation, but their defensive mentality is likely to bear some fruit against sides where they will go in as underdogs.
The Italian general, who has won every major international club title going, will like nothing better to get one over his country of birth and he has the capabilities to get at least a point (13/5 Ladbrokes) in their meeting on June 19. That should be enough, as long as they see of the Croatians, to pip the Italians for second.