Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Can France win the 2012 European Championship?

France have a proud record in the European Championships having won two Euros in 1984 and 2000.

Two years prior to their Euro 2000 success, France managed to win the most prestigious football event, the 1998 World Cup, on home soil.

Things then took a downturn, with disappointing 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 campaigns, but a Zinedine Zidane inspired run to the 2006 World Cup final proved the country still had vast resources of footballing talent to choose from.

Zidane aside, the nation has provided football fans around the world with plenty of awe-inspiring players. One legend that springs to mind is Arsenal’s former hit man - and France’s highest ever goal scorer - Thierry Henry.

The 34-year-old is currently contracted to the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer. The skillful forward had a brief loan spell at his former club, the Gunners, for two months during the MLS off-season. Henry certainly proved to the Arsenal fans that he has still got what it takes when it comes to scoring goals having scored two goals in seven appearances – both of them winners.

Another prolific player that France produced is the Manchester United legend Eric Cantona. The charismatic, enigmatic striker was a key figurehead in the Red Devils’ successes during the Frenchman’s time at the prestigious Manchester club. In France, Cantona isn’t as hailed as he is in England, but after scoring 20 goals in 45 appearances for his country it’s hard to understand why he’s not.

Looking at the current French national team, credit has to go to coach Laurent Blanc for the way he has re-built the team and turned their results and scores around after their disastrous World Cup campaign. Les Bleus crashed out at the group stages in South Africa amid a backdrop of internal feuding between players, coaching staff and the authorities. They qualifier for this summer’s competition with ease while friendly wins over England, Brazil and Germany highlight just how far Blanc has taken them.

It’s no wonder therefore that the bookies generally consider France as the fourth favourites to win the 2012 European Championships with their latest odds hovering around 12/1.

The French players that will make the biggest impact on this year’s Euros include: national team captain and goalkeeping talent Hugo Lloris, Manchester City’s nippy fullback Gael Clichy, Bayern Munich’s experienced midfielder Franck Ribery and the highly-sought after striker Olivier Giroud. If these players can combine effectively, France’s European campaign will be a prosperous one.

Chiellini: I'll be Ready at the Right Time

Juventus defender, Giorgio Chiellini, insists that he will have recovered from a thigh injury in time for the start of Euro 2012, but accepts that he will have to sit out the pre-tournament friendlies against Luxembourg and Russia.

The 27-year-old sustained a right thigh strain in Juve's final game of the Serie A season, on 13th May, and was told that he would be facing up to three weeks on the sidelines.

"I will be ready at the right time", said Chiellini. "If I don't take part in the two friendly games prior to the tournament, then it will be as a precautionary measure. I want to be ready to take on Spain, on 10th June, and I will be."

Chiellini helped Juventus clinch this season’s Serie A title, featuring in 34 of the club’s 38 games, as they finished with the best defensive record in the division, conceding only 20 goals.

He has made more than 200 appearances for Juve since moving to Turin from Fiorentina, seven years ago.
When Italy coach, Cesare Prandelli, announced his preliminary squad for the action in Poland and Ukraine, he issued a warning to all of his players that fitness was one of his main concerns.

When confirming that he will announce his final 23-man squad on 28th May, Prandelli said: "We have been very clear with all the players. We cannot allow players that are not 100 per cent fit [to play] because we don't have the time for them to recover.”

Italy are currently a 14/1 bet to take the gold in Poland and the Ukraine, this summer, according to the Italy Euro 2012 betting page. If your allegiances lie in Northern Europe, visit the Betfair Netherland Euro 2012 odds website for betting advice on Oranje.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Jones to learn from title woe

With Manchester City bagging the Premier League title with almost the last kick of the season, Manchester United defender Phil Jones believes he and the other young players at Old Trafford will learn plenty from the experience.

It was a cruel way for the Red Devils to lose their domestic crown, with only goal difference separating themselves and their neighbours after the final whistle at the Etihad Stadium.

United had thought the title was theirs, after a hard fought 1-0 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light but two injury-time goals for City defied soccer betting trends and earned them their first Premier League success.

Having thought the title was once again heading to Old Trafford, it was a bitter pill to swallow for Jones, who has impressed since making to move from Blackburn Rovers to the Theatre of Dreams.

But the England international, who has been called up to play more live football for the Three Lions at the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine, is confident the United players will come back stronger after a season which saw them fail to win any silverware.

Jones told the official club website: "I thought we'd pulled off the impossible at first but then City scored two goals in quick succession and that killed us.

"I'll take that on board with what I've learned this season. It's been a massive learning curve for me. I've played a lot of games this season and I've really enjoyed playing.

"City have won the title this year but hopefully we'll be back next season, fighting and ready to go again."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mourinho delays England return

With the news that Jose Mourinho has signed a new deal with Real Madrid, fans in England of the “Special One” will have to wait a little longer before seeing the return of the master tactician to the Premier League.

With the job up for grabs with his former club Chelsea and the vacancy at Anfield with Liverpool, there were suggestions the Portuguese coach could be set for an imminent return to the Premier League, where he claimed two titles with the Blues.

However Mourinho has put pen to paper on a new four-year deal at the Santiago Bernabeu, as he hopes to bring further success to the Spanish champions.

Having seen his side see off arch rivals Barcelona to defy the La Liga odds and claim the league crown and guided Real to the semi-finals of the Champions League, Mourinho is hungry for more silverware in Spain.

But this does mean football fans in England will have to wait to see Mourinho’s return, as the former Inter Milan and Porto manager, who has secured seven league titles in his career, has intimated he would relish the challenge of competing in the Premier League once again.

Whether the Special One is waiting for a vacancy at Manchester City as they go in search of European glory, or biding his time before Sir Alex Ferguson decides to call it a day at Old Trafford, remains to be seen.

What is certain is that Mourinho will continue to draw attention from those that bet on La Liga action in the coming years, as Real hope to stay on top of a new look Barcelona without manager Pep Guardiola.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Neville will Pull no Punches

Having recently been named as part of Roy Hodgson’s back room team, Gary Neville has insisted that he will be frank and honest with the players, promising not to shirk difficult discussions, if they are needed.

The former Manchester United and England right back, who retired from playing in February 2011, said: "I believe in honesty and, if a football player makes a mistake, he has potentially a billion people watching it around the world, depending on what game it is.”

As a player, Neville was a divisive character, whose passion for the red half of Manchester often drew derision from opposing fans.

Since his retirement, he has gained a reputation as a top-drawer TV pundit: "When I signed for Sky Sports, there were a lot of questions asked about me, about me being a Manchester United player for 20 years, being friends with a lot of the changing room."

In the last season, however, Neville has shown great tactical insight, as well as impartiality, during a very tense Premier League title run-in. He is now respected, if not liked, by the majority of viewers.

Neville represented England 85 times, playing alongside a number of the current squad’s key men including Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard.

If Neville is to be a successful coach, then he will need to be as honest with his former teammates in the dressing room, as he has been behind the TV cameras. If Neville is able to adapt to coaching with the same ease that he took to punditry, then there is no doubt that he will be a great success.

The first real test for Gary Neville as a coach will come in Euro 2012; Roy Hodgson’s men take on France in their opening Group D encounter on 11th June. A draw is the most likely result, according to the Euro 2012 Group D betting site.

If you are lucky for an outsider to place your money on, this summer, look no further than the Betfair Russia Euro 2012 odds page.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Champion Mario back in the Italy Fold

Having made a telling late contribution to Manchester City’s Premiership win Mario Balotelli has now been named in Italy’s preliminary 32 man squad for Euro 2012.

City boss Roberto Mancini had previously indicated that his 21-year old compatriot would not feature again in a sky-blue shirt after a series of disciplinary breaches including a recent red card against Arsenal.

With City 2-1 down to QPR, however, Mancini changed his mind and turned to the man from Palermo for inspiration. The ex-Inter Milan star duly provided a neat pass to set up Sergio Aguero to score the winning goal with only seconds remaining and deliver the first league title to the blue half of Manchester since 1968.

It remains to be seen whether or not this domestic contribution influenced Italy manager Cesare Prandelli’s decision, but he seems confident that Balotelli can deliver: "I never really thought of doing this without Balotelli, as he is a focal point of the national team," he said.

Prandelli left Balotelli out of the national squad in February following his stamp on Tottenham’s Scott Parker but he seems willing to forgive and forget now; "Have I made peace with Balotelli? Yes, although to be honest we never argued in the first place" he added.

After his recent disciplinary problems inclusion in this provisional squad is yet another let off for Balotelli who will have to curb his temper if he wishes to make any impact whatsoever in the tournament.The latest Betfair Group C Euro 2012 Odds suggest the 20102 World champions are fancied to qualify for the knock-out stages, but whether that will be as group winners or runners-up remains open to debate.

Italy kick off their campaign with a tough fixture against champions Spain on June 10th but if their star striker concentrates on matters on the pitch then he could deliver the goals needed to make them a force to be reckoned with.

Can the co-hosts Poland cause a shock in their home tournament? They are in a tough group with Greece, Czech Republic and Russia, get all the latest Betfair Group A Euro 2012 Odds here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

City triumph "incredible" - Mancini

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini described his side's first domestic title success in 44 years - won on goal difference in the most dramatic of circumstances - as "incredible".

The Etihad Stadium outfit became the first team to win the title on goal difference since Arsenal pipped Liverpool in 1989 thanks to two injury-time goals from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero which secured a 3-2 win against 10-man QPR.

Pablo Zabaleta had given the home the side lead but Djibril Cisse levelled for the relegation-threatened visitors just after the break. The R's then lost former City midfielder Joey Barton to a red card in a moment of sheer madness only for Jamie Mackie to head them in front, undoubtedly sparking frantic selections from punters active on the live soccer betting circuit.

At that point local rivals Manchester United were within touching distance of celebrating a record 20th domestic title after a 1-0 win at Sunderland, but two late goals brought about scenes of hysteria at Eastlands.

Mancini said: "This is an incredible moment. We wanted this title and we deserve to win this title. This is for all our supporters, the club, the chairman and the owner. This is the perfect finale for a crazy season. We dominated this season for 28 games, but when we beat a team like United twice in one season we deserve this."

Sir Alex Ferguson's deposed champions, also on 89 points, set a new domestic record for most points in a 38-game campaign without being crowned winners.

Ferguson, the domestic game's most decorated manager, said: "I congratulate City on winning the league. Anybody who wins it deserves it, because it's a long haul. At the end of our game our players didn't actually know the results. Now, they're really disappointed, I'm glad to say."

At the other end of the table, Bolton's 11-year stay in the Premier League came to an end following a 2-2 draw at Stoke. Wanderers, who knew only a win would keep them up, joined Blackburn and Wolves in dropping down to the Championship.

Few soccer betting tips would have predicted the eventual outcome at the bottom of the table. It is the first time all three sides promoted to the Premier League - QPR, Norwich and Swansea - have survived since 2002 when Bolton, Fulham and Blackburn all stayed up.

Bolton manager Owen Coyle said: "We'll regroup and pick ourselves up and see in the next few days what we need to do to move forward."