England manager Gareth Southgate is one step away from glory (Image: UEFA via Getty Images)
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The long wait is finally over – and punters might be forgiven a few tears.
England fans who like a bet can at long last look the outright market for a major tournament squarely in the eye.
All those decades of rotten odds milking the patriotic dreamers, but here we are at a major final (8pm) – and has there ever been a better opportunity to punt the Three Lions at a value price to win these Euros?
Certainly not ante post, when they were 5/1 and Italy were on offer at twice that.
Maybe on June 23, when England’s odds briefly touched 10/1 on the chaotic night of the Group F shake-up, when the calculators were out and it might be France in the last-16? But let’s not quibble now – England at 5/6 to lift the trophy is fair against Italy.
Both teams got an easy ride in the group stage – no Baku bakings to sink Roberto Mancini’s souffle – but Italy have faced the tougher knockout tests and the injuries have begun to add up.
As in 2012, the Azzurri might have left their legs on the journey.
Gareth Southgate has bonded self-belief to simple, effective tools, and the might of home advantage at these Euros has truly moved mountains, even the VAR.
Harry Maguire has scored in three of his last 10 England games. Get on ‘anytime scorer’ tonight at 16/1 (90mins).
In all the early talk about the ‘Best Young Player’ award, Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma got forgotten, possibly because he’s a goalkeeper and looks about 40.
But the semi-final shootout hero is the only one in this Azzurri squad (bar two bit-parters) young enough to even qualify for the gong. Take the Evens he lands it.
And split a smaller stake between Declan Rice (16/1) and Mikkel Damsgaard (20/1) – the Danish hotshot is the only eligible runner in UEFA’s official ratings top-20 as it stands.
Many of us tonight will give a thought to pals who didn’t live to see it, and I’ll raise a glass to my dear old dog, who died on the morning of England’s semi-final. Robert loved football, one in particular, and never passed.
But who’ll hog the limelight and land ‘Player of the Tournament’?
History says it will be a finalist, and two shine on UEFA’s ratings – the wonderfully terrier-like Raheem Sterling at 7/4 , and Marco Verratti, a very good boy at 33/1 .
Last time: Winners at 21/10 and 11/10
All odds William Hill