England, supposedly the home of football, have only managed to make two semi-finals in major tournaments since winning the World Cup in 1966 and seemingly are jinxed when major tournaments are on the horizon.
Whilst the French, have made inconsistency an art-form. World Cup winners in 1998 and European Championship victors in 2000, they have since fluctuating between finishing runners up in the World Cup in 2006, to being eliminated in the group stages on the 2010 competition and in the previous European Championships in Austria and Switzerland.
Many people are lining up the reverse forecast of France and England to both qualify from this group, but judging on past records and inconsistencies, the 7/4 (Bodog) available should be steered well clear of. Their group rivals Sweden and host nation Ukraine will ask plenty of questions of both sides and only time will tell which side responds with winning answers.
Of the two, certainly, France looked best equipped to rise to the occasion and top the group. A lot will depend on the opening game between England and the French on June 11, with the draw (9/4 Coral) looking the most likely result, although France should be best equipped to see off the challenge of both Sweden and Ukraine whilst England’s farcical preparations looks as though they will struggle to handle the pressure of going into a game as favourites.
France (9/5) to qualify from the group as winners looks the standout bet at punters disposal here. Going by recent major tournaments that advice probably does sound a little misjudged but it seems as though under Laurent Blanc, France as a footballing nation, are on the way back to the top.
The former Manchester United centre-half took over from Raymond Domenech at the end of their shambolic 2010 World Cup campaign, which even culminated in international bans for the likes of Patrice Evra and Nicolas Anelka after public fallout with the former manager.
Blanc however, as rejuvenated the side and has installed what seems an ethos within the squad that suggests the French are once again proud to be donning the Les Blues colours.
They cruised through qualification, losing just one game on the way, and also beat Germany in impressive fashion in February.
That may have only been a friendly but with big-game players such as Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema in the squad, the French should have no problem transferring friendly performances into competitive action. Make no doubt about it, they are one of the leading forces in European football at the moment and they should have a route to the semi-finals sewn up.
The confidence behind the French to win the group also lies with the fact that their only real challengers to the winners tag, England, are likely to fall well below par once again.
And as per usual they are far too short in the betting in both the outright market, where they are a ludicrous 11/1 (Bwin) and 9/5 (Various) to win Group D. England still have no manager, although Roy Hodgson, yes Roy Hodgson, looks set to be announced in the coming days, and their preparation has been incredibly farcical, even for England’s usual standards
. The 15/8 available on the Three Lions to crash and burn in the group stage looks a solid wager and has been well supported in the build-up to the tournament.
Ukraine have the support of the home crowd on their side, but the days of Andriy Shevchenko are long gone and they will struggle against the French, whilst Sweden are far too reliant on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who fails to fire on the big stage anyway.
All roads lead to France winning the group – and from there, who knows how far they could go.