High Expectations Bookmakers Favor Germany to Win EURO 2008

The German national football team wants to end a dismal 12-year run without a win when the EURO 2008 football championships start this weekend. Bookmakers have every confidence they will, making them favorites to clinch a fourth European title.


The bookmakers' favorite: Will Germany triumph at Euro 2008?
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The bookmakers' favorite: Will Germany triumph at Euro 2008?

You have to go back 12 long years since Germany last won a game at the European championships: Oliver Bierhoff's extra-time goal in the final of EURO 1996 in England against the Czech Republic sealed the victory for Germany and the country's third European championship title.

Since then, Germany has lost three matches and drawn three during its last two campaigns to win at Europe's biggest sporting event. Despite this dismal run, Germany is now the favorite with bookmakers to win the competition this year.

The high expectations of a German victory are in large part down to the luck of the draw -- the team will be playing against a weak lineup of countries during early matches, gifting the side a seemingly easy run to the quarterfinal. In the group stage the three-time champions take on Poland, a team they have never lost to in 16 games, followed by Croatia who only beat them once in seven meetings and then co-hosts Austria whose last victory against Germany goes back to 1986.

And even if Germany cruise through the group stage, they will be spared from playing some of the other big sides -- at least until the final: World Cup champions Italy, France and the Netherlands are all in a different half of the draw.

"The reason why Germany is the favorite is that they have the easiest way through to the semifinal," Graham Sharpe, media relations director of British bookmaker William Hill, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. The bookmaker has set the chances of another German triumph at 4:1. Spain and Italy are second and third favorites, respectively.

The punters seem to agree with those predictions: On Betfair, the world's largest Internet betting exchange, the three countries are also the pre-tournament favorites.

Another factor that might boost Germany's chances is that many of the matches will feel like home games. According to the AP, there will be 9,900 German fans in the 30,000 seater Klagenfurt stadium for the first game against Poland on Sunday. The organizers expect another 25,000 Germans, who do not have tickets, to cross the border into Austria, just to be in the Austrian town for the game.

Many Germans will be hoping their team will repeat their performance from the 2006 World Cup when their side, playing on home soil, played some attractive attacking football and came in third. According to a recent survey, carried out by FORSA for the German weekly Stern, 35 percent of those questioned believed their national side would win the European championships.

Germans' hopes will once again rest on the shoulders of their influential captain, midfielder Michael Ballack, who after a long injury spell has returned close to his best form. Germany also has a wealth of talent in attack -- with Mario Gomez, Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Kevin Kuranyi expected to score plenty of goals.

But questions remain about Germany's defense, as central defender Christopher Metzelder has been sidelined most of the year with a foot injury and Torsten Frings, another experienced defender, also battled with injury last season. Another weak link in the team could be goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who spent most of last season on the bench at London's Arsenal after losing the No. 1 spot. Although an excellent goalkeeper, he is prone to making horrific howlers.

Despite the team's defensive weaknesses, Germany national team coach Joachim Löw is confident about their chances. "We are one of the favourites," he told German sports news agency SID. "We proved that by our third place at the World Cup and a successful qualifying campaign. But for me Italy and Spain are, of course, also among the top favorites. Everyone is able to beat everyone else at the European Championships. The quality is simply very high and there is not much between any of the teams."

maw/ap

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