Odds lean toward Germany

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

Here's one sure bet for Euro 2008: The winner won't come from a country where fish and chips is a dietary staple.

While England and Scotland both failed to qualify for this year's renewal of the world's second biggest soccer tournament, the show must go on. And so too will the wagering.

With online betting bigger than it ever has been and Vegas starting to show more interest in the sport, the action will be brisk and the wagering menu fairly thick.

First things first, a country aching for a major international tournament score is the universal top choice among bookmakers be they in Europe, Las Vegas or the great gray ether of the Internet.

Germany, which is coming off a surprise third-place finish as the host of the most recent World Cup in 2006, is the 31/2-1 favourite to win it all at the end of what promises to be a rivetting June in Austria and Switzerland.

Next up is the reigning World Cup champions from Italy, who are the co-second choice with Spain, a perennial underachiever in major events, at 5.5-1. Shop around and you might get the Germans at 5-1 and the Italians at a generous 8-1, which they were on some European betting sites less than 10 days before the action was scheduled to begin.

The sexy pick (and settle down ladies, we're not just saying that because of heartthrob striker Cristiano Ronaldo) might be Portugal at 71/2-1. Of course first you need to get over the fact that in the words of one online handicapper, they tend to "soil the sheets" under pressure and never have won a Euro or World Cup title.

That said, with Ronaldo coming off a season in which he scored a stunning 43 goals and with one of the best coaches in the world in Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Portuguese easily should capture Group A, where they are the odds-on pick.

Speaking of the Groups, no matter who you like in Group C, you can get a generous price because it's so difficult to choose between three powerhouses in what is clearly the toughest bunch of the four.

Depending on where you shop, Italy is a little less than 2-1 to win the group, France a little over 2-1 and the Netherlands a half a point higher. And even the fourth choice, Romania, can't be dismissed.

Few are giving defending champion Greece much chance to repeat the magic from four years ago. But if you think they can contend, odds of 15-1 are generous enough.

Capitalizing on the popularity of prop wagers at events such as the Super Bowl, there is a vast array of gimmick wagers available for the Euro tournament.


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