Welcome to the first of our weekly Euro 2016 columns with the thoughts of BetVictor Brand Ambassador Michael Owen.
He was the first England player to score in four successive major tournaments but is not letting his heart rule his head and believes Germany will add the Euro 2016 title to their World crown.
We began by asking the former Liverpool and Manchester United ace for his outright winners and how far in the competition he thought the four home nations would go.
Joachim Low still has the nucleus of the side that won the World Cup in 2014 (13 of the current squad went to Brazil) and, whilst they didn’t impress everyone in qualification, their record suggests they are the nation to beat in France.
The critics will tell you they lack full-backs and that only one of their 23-man squad plays full-back for his club side, but they have real invention and goals in midfield and I suggest we all keep an eye on Schalke’s Leroy Sane who has pace to burn and could be a real weapon against tiring defenders off the bench.
Michael’s recommendation: Germany to win Euro 2016 at 4/1 with BetVictor
How do you think the four home nations will fare?
I expect the Three Lions to comfortably make it out of Group B and win their last 16 tie but that might be where our Euro dreams end at the quarter-final stage. I just feel we will ship too many goals to win a major tournament but I would love to be proved wrong.
Michael’s recommendation: England’s stage of elimination: quarter-final at 5/2
I think Chris Coleman’s side will make it out of Group B as long as they get something from their opening game with Slovakia on Saturday; it goes without saying that much rests on the large shoulders of Gareth Bale but I am confident they can progress to the knock-out stages.
Michael’s recommendation: Wales’ stage of elimination: last 16 at 11/8 with BetVictor
Michael O’Neill’s side have done famously to reach France but they face a difficult-looking group and might struggle for goals. A draw against Poland would be an excellent result and that would set them up nicely for what looks a key game against Ukraine in their quest to make it through to the knock-out stages.
Michael’s recommendation: Northern Ireland’s stage of elimination: group stages at 4/11
Republic Of Ireland
Martin O’Neill’s side have failed to impress in their warm-up games and I think they face a difficult, but not impossible, task in reaching the last sixteen. Their opening game with Sweden next Monday is huge but I think they can rise to the occasion and reach the knock-out stages.
Michael’s recommendation: Ireland’s stage of elimination: last 16 at 15/8
England v Russia
The Three Lions should have too much for Russia who were dealt a blow when Igor Denisov limped off against Serbia on Sunday. The opening game of any major tournament is always cagey as you are desperate to avoid defeat, but this England side must be bold and attack and I think they will gain three valuable points.
Michael’s recommendations: England to win at 17/20 and England to win 2-1 at 17/2 with BetVictor
Wales v Slovakia
Slovakia have hit a bit of form in recent internationals whilst Wales have lost three out of their last four but I expect Wales, and Gareth Bale in particular, to step up to the plate and grind out a draw.
Michael’s recommendation: Game to finish 1-1 at 6/1 and Gareth Bale to be top Wales goalscorer in the tournament at 6/5 with BetVictor.
Poland v N Ireland
As stated previously I worry for Northern Ireland in front of goal and their set-pieces will be very important if they are to progress; that said they face one of the best strikers in world football in Robert Lewandowski and the Bayern striker might be the difference between the teams.
Michael’s recommendation: Poland to win to nil at 29/20 and Lewandowski to score at anytime at 20/21 with BetVictor
Rep Of Ireland v Sweden
Sweden were much too good for Wales at the weekend but they, too, only qualified for the tournament via the play-offs and I think Ireland will get a draw in what I think will be a tight, nervous affair with both sides well aware of the significance of their opening game with Belgium and Italy to come.
Michael’s recommendation: Game to finish in a draw at 21/10 and under 2.5 goals at ½ with BetVictor
The Euro 2016 tournament starts with France v Romania on Friday evening and remember we will be giving away £1,000,000 as part of our Million Pound Goal campaign on the final on July 10; to earn your predictions simply place a £5 qualifying bet on the Euros with BetVictor.