Dick Advocaat’s Russia go into Euro 2012 quietly confident as the 3/2 favourites to win Group A.
A 14-match unbeaten run means few, if any, of Europe’s greatest names will fancy meeting Russia.
Despite the European Championships’ notorious habit for throwing up shock winners, Russia’s 22/1 odds for winning are for the highly adventurous only.
However, it is well worth taking a look at many of the other markets available with bwin.
Top two from Group A to be Russia/Poland (@ 4/1, free £25 bet wins £125)
Russia deserve their Group A favourites tag on form, the quality of the squad and their pedigree in the competition.
For a second-placed finish behind Dick Advocaat’s side it is difficult to overlook co-hosts Poland. The Poles have chalked up some valuable friendly wins over the past two years while the rest of the continent were busy battling it out for a finals place.
Victories over the likes of Argentina have made for a settled side, featuring Arsenal’s talented goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and three of the Borrusia Dortmund team that lifted a second German title in a row last month.
The passionate home support cannot fail to lift the Poles. The exits in recent years of South Africa, Austria and Switzerland at group stages as tournament hosts disguise quite what a boost that the partisan masses can give.
The remainder of Group A, the Czech Republic and Greece, look no better than average propositions for their part. Both sides are lumbered with problematic attacks and sullied by poor warm-up results.
Russia to be eliminated in quarter-finals (@ 6/5, free £25 bet wins £55)
In such a weak group, Russia seem nailed-on to secure one of the two quarter-final berths, but then their Euro 2012 challenge will get serious very suddenly.
Holland or Germany are likely to await at that stage, bar some improbable and uncharacteristic slip-ups from the Group B favourites, and both sides are much stronger than the Russians.
Most of the side that confidently brushed Holland aside in Euro 2008 are retained in Dick Advocaat’s squad but things have changed since then. The Russian players from that era have gained experience but are no longer the fresh young upstarts who put in a fearless performance that day.
After reaching a World Cup final, it is less likely that the Dutch would underestimate the Russians this time too. Germany’s strength in major finals, meanwhile, almost goes without stating.
Andrei Arshavin not to score at Euro 2012 (@ 9/10, free £25 bet wins £47.50)
The Russian captain has been off colour for most of the past two years and might need a miracle to deliver the same impact on this tournament as when he shot to Europe’s attention four years ago.
Arshavin spluttered as Russia eased through qualifying for Euro 2012, failing to score in the whole campaign despite being the only man to appear in all ten qualifiers.
The Arsenal playmaker has shown glimpses of his former self of late during a promising loan spell at Zenit St.Petersburg and in pre-tournament friendly matches.
There is also less pressure on his shoulders to deliver goals after the emergence of other goalscoring midfielders like young CSKA Moscow talent Alan Dzagoev.
But should Russia depart at the quarter-final stages, as seems likely, Arshavin will have just four matches at the finals.
After less than one goal in every six appearances for his club sides over the past two years, backing him not to score this summer is hugely appealing.
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