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Euro 2020 final betting tips: Back Southgate’s men to bring football home


Euro 2020 final betting tips: Back Southgate’s men to bring football home

Fifty-five years. That’s too drawn-out a period to make sense of. That’s forever ago.

TO get a clearer perspective on just how long it’s been since England last reached the final of a major tournament, consider this. Back in the days when most of us still had dial-up internet; and Wimbledon and Nottingham Forest were in the top-flight; and the UK’s biggest selling recording artists were Robson and Jerome; all the way back then, two comedians wrote a jaunty song all about how long it’s been since England last reached the final of a major tournament. That in itself is forever ago.

It would therefore be perfectly understandable if England supporters were getting a bit carried away right now, riding a wave of emotion and not only humming that infectious tune at every opportunity but also seriously believing in their heart of hearts that football is indeed coming home.

England are 13/8 to win inside 90 minutes at Wembley on Sunday. Combine as a Bet Builder with a 1-0 score-line for a 23/4 pay-out. Three of the last four finals have finished 1-0.

Except that’s not the case, not really, not when you strip away the patriotic feel-good vibes after Wednesday evening’s tense tussle against the Danes saw the Three Lions finally end their semi curse.

The reason for this shared wariness partly comes down to superstition. When it became apparent that England had negotiated their way out of the group stage into the ‘easy’ half of the draw every man and his dog decreed that Gareth Southgate’s side might very conceivably make it to the final but then would lose to Italy. And one of the unwritten rules to life is that you don’t get to change the course of a prediction several miles into its journey.

Furthermore, there is solid reasoning underpinning our perception of Italy as the competition’s champions-elect. From the get-go the Azzurri have looked like a complete package, coming into the Euros boasting a formidable defensive record and then dispensing with Turkey and Switzerland with style to spare. So impressive have they been that it only took a couple of games before a tepid backing of them as an outside bet became a firm acknowledgement of their inevitable success.

Remarkably, Italy were last breached inside 40 minutes 37 games ago. Back the draw/England at a tempting 5/1

All of which means that we are in for a strange few days ahead, with a nation buzzing in excitement yet also expecting heartache. It’s like a kid counting down the days to Christmas despite knowing that Santa is a rotter.

Perhaps it’s time now though to alter that thinking?

Not that Italy should be under-valued in any way, shape or form. They are a tremendously well put together collective, built on stereotypes they have long embraced and excelled in. At the back seasoned defenders are all class and smiles but carry stiletto daggers down their socks. Up front, a compendium of tiny, technically brilliant forwards run amok. Two details that have particularly stood out concerning Roberto Mancini’s men is how they share around the goal-load, meaning individual form is less a consideration. It’s also noteworthy how flexible they are regarding possession. Whether they are expected to dominate proceedings, as against Wales, or cede 70% of the ball to Spain, they typically prevail.

Yet bluntly, this fabulous creation is beatable and blunter still, England have the beating of them and to illustrate this let’s start with the biggest strength of both sides, one they happen to share.

Throughout the tournament, Italy’s impervious and imperious back-line has been praised to the rafters and rightly so. England’s equally watertight rearguard meanwhile has only been reluctantly acknowledged, possibly because it is an extension on a cautious approach that generally frustrates.

Still, England last conceded from open play 13 hours ago with only a worldy set-piece blotting their copybook. They have only once found themselves two behind in the last two years and when we ally this to Southgate’s obsession with controlling a game’s narrative, it is exceedingly unlikely that this weekend’s final will spin beyond their grasp at any point.

Combined, Italy and England have conceded just five goals in their last 19 and a half hours of football and the safest bet of all going into this momentous clash is that defences will reign supreme. Both are peerless.

Under 1.5 goals at 8/5 will be considered great value once both sides begin to nullify the other

If recognizing all of the above levels out the playing field a little there are further causes for optimism not least in seeing Italy rattled for sustained spells against Spain. Granted, La Roja’s approach differs to that of England’s, populating more advanced territory than England would be comfortable with and for longer periods. Yet the usually swaggering Azzurri appeared ragged when faced with persistent pressure and if Mount and co can replicate their second half against Denmark and create overloads down the flanks then such coordinated sorties can reap a priceless dividend.

Lastly, naturally, we must consider where this dividend will pay off and for this we naturally turn to Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling.

Pay little heed to the theory that Italy quietened Romelu Lukaku therefore it follows that Kane will feed off scraps here. The Spurs front-man will drop deeper on instruction and if anything Mancini will target Sterling who has been exceptional in his spiritual home of Wembley.

The dug-out dwelling style guru will be wise to do so too. The Manchester City winger boasts three goals and two assists at the Euros and is a revitalized proposition from the player struggling for form throughout the tail-end of 2020/21. His positive influence on Kane meanwhile should not be under-estimated and clearly the pair thrive off each other. Sterling has now assisted his partner-in-crime six times on international duty and staggeringly, only six of England’s last 40 goals have not directly involved either of them.

Red-hot Sterling is 15/2 to be the first goal-scorer. He has developed a welcome habit for getting off the mark early but here patience will be key.

It will be tough on Sunday as England face their day of destiny. At times it will be downright scary. But if we can’t believe and wholeheartedly so for once in a lifetime then frankly, what is the point of anything? So don’t just hum the song, sing it loud. It’s coming home.

 

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