Towards the end of the Euro 2004 group stage, Gerard Houllier, of UEFA's technical study group, announced with a characteristic flush of emotion that ‘it's even harder here than the World Cup.' Greece quickly proved Houllier wrong by winning the tournament. Coaches frequently agree with Houllier's claim, citing the supposedly higher average quality of teams at the Euro. But those coaches are usually trying to dampen the expectations of their public before their team gets knocked out in the first round.
But the Euro might be the most exciting championship in football. The action is of a high quality, and at 23 days, it's over before anyone can get bored. Most importantly it can be won by anyone. Like the World Cup, it is dominated by traditional powers - France and Germany - but the shorter format means an in-form small country can sometimes go all the way - Holland, Denmark, Greece.
Germany are once again favourites, but Portugal and Spain both have better players. France left two of Europe's best full-backs at home - a mistake by coach Raymond Domenech, or a testament to awesome strength in depth? Italy haven't won the Euro since 1968 - the challenge here is to escape a strong group. Of the “small” teams, Russia and Romania look the strongest. The outsiders are the hosts Austria, generally available at 80/1 - the same odds at which you could have backed Greece to win in 2004