European Championship Betting

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP Greece provided one of the biggest shocks in international football when they won the 2004 event as 100-1 shots, beating hosts Portugal 1-0 in the final, but they were not the first and will undoubtedly not be the last underdog nation to spring a surprise in the European Championship.

Many observers believe this 16-team competition is stronger and harder to win than the World Cup and because of the quality of every outfit, including the perceived rags, it is terribly difficult to predict. Suffice to say that steering well clear of short prices is advised.

Germany (7-2) justified favouritism at Euro 96, but 18-1 shots Denmark, who were told they were competing only a matter of weeks before the finals after Yugoslavia had been expelled from the competition, took the honours at Euro 92 when seventh of eight teams in the betting.

The Czech Republic reached the 1996 final before losing at 80-1, and then eight years later the Greeks became gods in the bookmakers' eyes when providing the layers with one of their greatest ever tournament results.

There is nothing to link the success of Denmark, Greece and the Czechs, but don't be afraid to back a team once they show their class. For instance, Greece were still rank outsiders despite beating favourite after favourite and it's important to be open-minded about a team's ability as a competition progresses.

The lesson to be heeded from Greece's triumph is that the market can be slow to react to the fact that a team representing a nation with little heritage on the international stage is infinitely better than its predecessors. While the Greeks were conquering Europe, they were still being priced up as if their dismal failures of two, four, six and more years ago were of significance.

Greece shock winners of Euro 2004 An international football team can change drastically in two years, both in terms of the players available and the quality of the coach. Current form is everything. What a country achieved or failed to achieve in previous years is irrelevant.

Because the European Championship tends to be competitive, the draw becomes a big factor, particularly in the opening group matches and knockout stages. Hills spokesman Graham Sharpe once said: "Casual punters don't like to back draws. It's usually only the shrewdies."

Be a shrewdie. Don't be afraid to punt the draw. In the four European Championships between 1992 and 2004, having a £10 bet on the draw in every opening group game would have yielded a profit of £115, while, when the pressure rises in the knock-out arena, so does the chance of a match being level after 90 minutes.

Six of the eight semi-finals in that timespan ended all-square after regular time and it makes sense to keep the draw on your side, either by having an Asian handicap bet or by laying one of the teams you don't fancy.

Another decent punting strategy is to back under 2.5 goals in the final, with no showpiece having produced three goals since 1980 up to and including the 2004 championship.

Finding a Golden Boot bet is pretty much the same for the Euros as the World Cup. Milan Baros, 66-1, scored five goals for the Czechs in 2004, who had 500-1 shots Latvia in their opening section, while Alan Shearer notched five times for England at Euro 96 thanks largely to the Three Lions' easy start against Switzerland and Scotland - two of the four worst teams in the competition.