Are England False Favourites for the Euros?

england football

On the face of it, there is an obvious case as to why England are favourites for the Euros. Play their cards right and get the results expected, and they are guaranteed to have unofficial home matches at Wembley right through the tournament.

Playing in your own national stadium is obviously a big plus for any team taking part in this special pan-European tournament. Roared on by passionate Three Lions fans, it is not a stretch to imagine England could go all the way.

They start the tournament as 9/2 joint-favourites with France in the outright Euro 2021 betting odds, and that makes them the team to beat. England have a crop of very talented players, so what is there not to like?

Home discomforts and the weight of expectation

Well, firstly there is the pesky stat that no host nation has won the Euros since 1984. Portugal in 2004 and France in 2016 were well-fancied to make home advantage count, and both just came up short losing in the final, so that acts as a cautionary tale.

England players have not always coped well with the weight of expectation and pressure that comes with pulling on the famous Three Lions shirt. In fact, they performed better when hopes were downplayed, reaching the last World Cup semi-finals somewhat under the radar.

Club success comes at cost

The hype is back, however, and that is far from groundless. Three of the four football teams that contested the UEFA European club finals, the Champions League and Europa League, were from the Premier League.

On the downside, that means players from Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have had an awful lot of football for club and country in the last 12 months. Fatigue may be a factor.

Going into the Euros, Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount – a favourite of England boss Gareth Southgate – has played 64 games for his team and on international duty since September. Marcus Rashford has made 60 appearances in the same period, while Three Lions captain Harry Kane turned out 58 times despite club side Tottenham making an early exit from the Europa League.

While you could argue it is the same for players representing other countries with the European club season crammed into a timeframe that is a month shorter than normal, those exceptional Premier League team performances in continental competitions could come back to haunt England. There is also the matter of fitness for key players in the spine of Southgate’s side.

Key central defender Harry Maguire missed the end of the regular season injured, while Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson played just the second half of England’s final warm-up game against Romania. That his only appearance for club or country in over 100 days, so there has to be doubts about his fitness.

How much strength in-depth there is in the heart of defence and central midfield is open to debate. Southgate opted against bringing Southampton skipper James Ward-Prowse into his final 26-man squad, instead giving the last spot to Brighton defender Ben White following an injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold in the penultimate warm-up friendly.

The England manager may be gambling on the sharpness of vice-captain Henderson but he isn’t prepared to chance a lack of cover at the back if Maguire doesn’t recover from ankle ligament damage.

While Southgate’s England go into this summer’s tournament as favourites, it’ll be interesting to see if the players that have been picked can perform and meet the raised expectations, and make their presence known as the team to beat.