Ever since the Euro 2012 draw took place in Kiev on December 2nd, much midnight oil has been burned in trying to work out who will qualify from Group C, which sees Italy, Spain, Croatia and Ireland fight it out for two places in the quarter-finals.
It gets even harder when one tries to guess how many points Italy might pick up against such tough opposition: to many, the Azzurri are still an unknown quantity, mainly because their qualifying group failed to put them under any real pressure.
Though Italy are bwin’s second favourites to make it through the group at 3/5 behind Spain’s 2/25, many see them as a side who are as likely to comfortably snatch qualification as they are to flop, especially following the explosion of the Calcioscommesse scandal and Domenico Criscito’s decision to pull out of the tournament.
Another major factor will be Italy’s traditional allergy to the group stage – they tend to prefer the World Cup, where this phase is nowhere near as complicated as it is at the Euros.
It is important to avoid simply guessing how each match will pan out before teeing up the scores. Each group has its own context and a dynamic that is partly influenced by the order of play.
Then again, the first game will likely play a very important role here. With Italy being dropped in at the deep end – they start against Spain in Gdansk on June 10th – Cesare Prandelli’s men risk going into their second game against Croatia at a disadvantage if they lose.
The Croatians, like Spain, are likely to beat Ireland and could consequently play for a draw against the Azzurri, knowing they may well face a second-string Spanish side in their last group game.
This makes Italy’s odds to rack up a mere four points a good play at 5/2, provided they make it past Ireland, which is hardly a guarantee: many Italy fans still look back with horror at their defeat at the hands of Ray Houghton’s wonder goal at the 1994 World Cup.
Forced to go for a win, Italy may buckle under the pressure – making a two-point total an interesting dark horse at 9/1.
All this pessimism aside (I wouldn’t be Italian if I hadn’t looked at the worst-case scenario), Italy can, conversely, be backed to make it to seven points at 11/2 – a price which will look even better if they draw against Spain (or beat them, as they did in a recent friendly).
An encouraging start with a stalemate against the holders will likely give Italy the confidence they need to beat both Croatia and Ireland.
Punters registering with bwin can claim a free £25 bet and placing this on Italy to amass seven points in Group C would return if successful.
And if the Azzurri do make it through to the last eight, there is every chance their tournament nous could kick in and taken them all the way to the final.
Recommended bet: Italy to score seven points @ 11/2
Outside punt: Italy to score two points @ 9/1
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