The European Championship is down to four elite soccer powers, with defending world champs Spain taking on Portugal, and Germany pitted against Italy in the tournament semifinals.
We caught up with Aron Wattleworth of bet365.com
and Greg Sindall of SportsInteraction.com
and discussed the action coming in on this week’s semifinal matches, starting with Wednesday’s showdown between rivals Spain and Portugal.Spain (-105) vs. Portugal (+350, Draw +225)
Spain opened as a -110 favorite was bet down as low as +100 before bettors bought back the reigning European champion. While both sides have fluctuated, the draw has taken continuous action and has come down from +240. Spain and Portugal have played to a draw in 12 of their 34 all-time meetings, and Wattleworth expects the price on the draw to continue to drop thanks to Spain’s tinkering with formations.
“Spain has shown a much different approach to this tournament, with the packed midfield and no defined striker setup,” Wattleworth told Covers
. “It seems Vicente Del Bosque may be looking to another new style of play: 4-4-2 became 4-3-3, and now some form of 4-5-1 but the one is not a recognized striker, so it’s basically a 4-6? Not so sure it’s innovative, but it’s definitely different".
Due to Spain’s striker-less formation, prop bettors are jumping on Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (+500) as the game’s first goal scorer. Fernando Torres (+550) was being backed heavily in Spain’s previous matches but the uncertainty of the lineup has prop backers playing the waiting game.
Sindall says many bettors are fading Portugal due to Ronaldo's inability to set up in high-profile matches. While he shares the lead in goals for the tournament, he's been unable to finish numerous chances and was limited the last time Portugal faced Spain in the knock stage at World Cup 2010.
"Ronaldo played well the last couple games, but has yet to come through on the big stage in an international tournament," Sindall told Covers. "A lot of the bettors do not seem convinced that he can do it."Germany (-110) vs. Italy (+350, Draw +240)
Italy squeaked into the semis, coming from behind in a shootout with England to set up a date with an old rival. Germany has been perfect so far, toppling Greece 4-2 in the quarters but missing out on numerous opportunities early in the match.
According to Sindall, an ankle injury to German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has cooled off action on this semifinal showdown. However, it appears he will be ready to play against Italy Thursday.
"We moved back when the news of Schweinsteiger’s questionable status came out...," he says. "As for where the Germany line closes, it all depends on Schweinsteiger really. He is a very important piece to the German side."
Odds are back to their original post at bet365.com after the Germans climbed to -120 for a brief moment, making the Azzurri a tempting +400. Wattleworth predicts this line will close closer to -125, regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s match, due to the Germans being in better condition for this quick turnaround.
“Though (Italy has) three days to rest, the tournament has been tough on players from a conditioning point of view and the Germans have had the easiest path to the semis...,” says Wattleworth. “For Italy, they will go how Andrea Pirlo goes. England did not do anywhere near an effective enough job to contain him. He had almost free rein to control the passing game for Italy and did it very well. I would not expect Germany to allow that to happen when they play him.”
German striker Mario Gomez shares the tournament lead in goals with three and is getting solid action at +450 to score the first goal of Thursday’s match. Another Mario – Mario Balotelli – is also drawing his share of the prop money, priced at +1,000 to open scoring for the Italians.
The correct score market is also heating up for this game, but all the money is coming in on favorable German results: Germany 2-0 (+700), Germany 2-1 (+800) and Germany 3-1 (+1600) are the most popular picks.Follow Jason Logan on Twitter @CoversJLo