Wales Are Left With Ifs, Buts And Maybes . . . The Euro 2024 Story So Far

Wales England World Cup. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Wales Are Left With Ifs, Buts And Maybes . . . The Euro 2024 Story So Far

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By Graham Thomas

So, the group games of the Wales-less Euros are over and we are now moving into the knockout stages. How was it for you?

With Rob Page having been shown the door – just two friendly matches on from the FAW offering him a comfy chair for the next World Cup qualification campaign – there is plenty to focus on in terms of who should be his successor.

But it’s worth imagining what might have been for Red Wall members who had hoped to be in Germany this summer.

If Wales had gone to these finals, what kind of Euros would the team be having? A Georgian one, maybe, with historical highs?

Or a Scottish one, the team that finished with the worst record of all 24 nations after the group stages.

Poland, who beat Wales 5-4 on penalties in that nervy, edgy, and ultimately heart-breaking (from a Red Waller perspective) play-off final, had what you might describe as a typically Polish tournament finals.

They were mostly cagey, unadventurous and disappointing in their first couple of matches – a 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands, followed by a 3-1 loss to Austria – until they came out fighting when it was too late.

A 1-1 draw with France was their best performance and result, but by then they were already checking out of their German hotel.

Would Wales have done any better under Page, had they got there?

Maybe the Wales team that beat Croatia last October to re-kindle their qualification campaign, might have posed problems for the Dutch and the Austrians. But would they have beaten either?

And even if they had taken a point off each, would Wales have done anything other than lose to France in their final game?

It’s all conjecture, of course, but if there is one lesson from the contrasting fortunes of Croatia and Turkey – the countries that finished above Wales in qualification – it is that tournament football these days seems to be about young, energetic teams, playing with confidence and freedom.

Turkey have had plenty of all those qualities and in brilliant teenager Arda Guler – who scored against Wales in the qualifiers – they have one of the emerging young stars of the tournament.

Croatia, on the other hand, are heading home, after their talented but ageing team – characterised by Luca Modric – ran out of steam and finished with just two points from their three matches.

The knockout stages round of 16 is normally where the handbrakes are released and the teams are forced to go for it a little more – even if some will seek the roulette option of penalties. On Saturday afternoon, Switzerland face Italy with the unimpressive Italians narrow favourites to go through with DragonBet at 7/5.

The Swiss are priced 9/4 with the draw at 19/10 and if you think the Italians can go all the way again and defend their trophy successfully, then you can back them at 16/1.

On Saturday evening, it’s the turn of the hosts, Germany, who take on Denmark for a place in the quarter-finals. Germany are firm favourites for this one, based on their home advantages and good form so far and they are priced 8/13.

Denmark are 9/2, with the draw at 14/5.

On Sunday, it’s England v Slovakia, followed by Spain against Georgia. England are solid 2/5 favourites, with the Slovaks at an attractive 7/1 and the draw is 10/3.

A strange thing has happened to England. They began the tournament as joint favourites, faded to third or fourth favourites, but have now returned to their joint favourite status.

It’s got little to do with their fairly insipid performances so far, but more to do with how the tournament draw has panned out – placing all the other fancied nations, such as the Germans, Spain and France, in the other side of the draw.

England could actually reach the final by beating a combination of Slovkia, Switzerland and Turkey if results fall in their favour. That is why they are back to 4/1 to win the thing, rather than anything to do with their form so far.

Spain are also 4/1 to be winners, with Germany at 9/2, France at 6/1, Portugal at 7/1, the Netherlands at 12/1 and Austria priced 16/1 with the Italians.

Rank outsiders? The Georgians and Slovenia who are both at 250/1.

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