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France favourite for 2016 European Championships despite injuries

FRANCE’S chances of taking out the 2016 European Championships on home soil took a big blow this week with the news that Raphael Varane will miss the tournament through injury.

The hosts are $4.33 favourites at in the Euro 2016 outright betting, on level pegging with Germany ahead of Spain ($6), England ($8.50) and Belgium ($11).

But now they will have to manage without their star defender, who sustained a thigh injury while training with Real Madrid for this weekend’s UEFA Champions League final.

The French Football Federation (FFF) confirmed on Wednesday that Sevilla centre-back Adil Rami would replace Varane in Didier Deschamp’s 23-man squad.

“Given the unavailability time is considered too long for national team deadlines, Didier Deschamps decided not to retain Raphael Varane for Euro 2016,” the FFF said in an official statement.

“As a result, the coach made the decision to integrate Adil Rami in the list of 23.”

Italy ($15) will also be missing some big names for the four-week tournament, which kicks off on June 10, 2016.

Veteran playmaker Andrea Pirlo, now 37 years of age and playing in the United States, was overlooked, while the ever-controversial Mario Balotelli also missed the cut after a disappointing season on loan at AC Milan.

Azzurri coach Antonio Conte will also be without the services of star midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti, both of whom are injured.

Meanwhile, there’s no room for Chelsea’s Diego Costa as Spain look to make it three in a row after their back-to-back wins at Euro 2008 and Euro 2012.

The Blues are heavily represented nonetheless in Vicente del Bosque’s provisional squad, with Cesc Fabregas, Cesar Azpilicueta and Pedro Rodriguez all making the short list.

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea and Manchester City’s David Silva also feature in a talent-packed squad dominated by representatives from Barcelona and the Madrid giants.

Over in the UK, questions linger as to whether England captain Wayne Rooney has done enough to earn a starting place at France 2016.

The Man United man was forced out of the forward line at Old Trafford this season and could be required to play a deeper-lying role in a youthful Three Lions outfit.

Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy are the standout options up top after stellar seasons for Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City respectively, with Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford the other contenders for the striker slots.

Spurs young guns Dele Alli and Eric Dier are tipped for starting roles in a new-look midfield, leaving Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Danny Drinkwater, Fabian Delph and Jack Wilshere to vie for the remaining spots in the middle third.

Euro 2016 outright betting markets

France, Germany – $4.33

Spain – $6

England – $8.50

Belgium – $11

Portugal – $14

Italy – $15

Croatia – $23

Russia – $34

Austria, Poland – $36

Switzerland – $41

Turkey, Wales – $61

Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Ukraine – $91

Czech Republic, Slovakia – $101

Hungary – $226

Albania, Northern Ireland – $326

Market provided by

Top goalscorer futures odds:

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – $6.50

Thomas Muller (Germany) – $9

Antoine Griezmann (France) – $10

Harry Kane (England) – $15

Olivier Giroud (France), Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Alvaro Morata (Spain) – $17

Aritz Aduriz (Spain), Mario Gomez (Germany) – $21

Anthony Martial (France) – $26

Mario Gotze, Marco Reus (Germany), Eden Hazard (Belgium), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Mario Mandzukic (Croatia), Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy, Wayne Rooney (England) – $34

Christian Benteke, Kevin de Bruyne (Belgium), Graziano Pelle (Italy) – $41

Others quoted – odds by

Players to watch at Euro 2016

Cristiano Ronaldo
Can the Real Madrid superstar bring his prolific club form to the international stage? That’s the question for a Portugal side that relies heavily on the output of Ronaldo, who has scored some 52 goals for los Galacticos in 2015-16. With no Lionel Messi to cramp his style, he’s the obvious favourite for both the Euro 2016 top scorer and the Player of the Tournament award ($10 at Sportsbet).

Paul Pogba
After another outstanding season with Juventus in the Italian Serie A, France’s midfield machine is among the hot favourites for the Player of the Tournament gong. Sportsbet has him pegged at $11 in the Euro 2016 futures betting, behind only Ronaldo. Along with Griezmann ($13), he could be the X-factor for a highly fancied French side.

Thomas Muller
The Germans have bundles of quality in the form of Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, et al, but Muller is the man who so often steps up on the big stage. He scored five times during his nation’s successful 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign, so it’s no surprise to see him among the frontrunners for the Golden Boot. He’s also highly fancied to be named the best player at the 2016 Euros ($13 at Sportsbet).

Kevin de Bruyne
Again, Belgium come into the summer as the cult favourites and the subject of many a speculative futures bet. But whereas Eden Hazard was the big gun heading into World Cup 2014, this time it’s his former Chelsea teammate who holds that title. De Bruyne has emerged as a world-class playmaker since leaving Stamford Bridge, which is why Sportsbet rates him a $13 chance for Euro 2016 Player of the Tournament.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Could this be the last time we see Zlatan on the international stage? The 34-year-old striker extraordinaire is still banging in the goals for both Paris Saint-Germain and Sweden, scoring 11 times in 10 games for his country in 2015. The Swedes must negotiate Belgium and Italy in the group stage, however, which is why Sportsbet has Ibra well down the list for both top scorer and the Golden Ball ($51).

Dele Alli
With no Steven Gerrard and no Frank Lampard, it’s time for someone new to become England’s talisman in the middle of the park. Alli was incredible in his debut season for Spurs, showing all the aggression, impudence and raw ability of a bonafide superstar in the making. His teenage temper is the major concern, but $34 odds for Player of the Tournament look decent value for a guy widely tipped as the breakthrough star of the Euros.

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