Michael McWilliams: Ravenous Ronaldo still knows the way to goal

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace (Luis Vieira/AP)
Cristiano Ronaldo can keep up his love affair with the European Championships in an exciting Portugal team (Luis Vieira/AP)

DESPITE the expansion to 24 teams in 2016, the European Championships do still tend to have fewer hammering matches than the World Cup, with even the weaker nations of a decent standard.

That said, it is worth looking at the group draws when weighing up who to back in the top goalscorer market, with Cristiano Ronaldo getting all five of his Euro 2020 strikes in the opening phase, which was enough to share the honours with Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick.

If you can find an attacker in a team that have a weakish group and could go deep as well, all the better, which makes Ronaldo of real interest.

Kylian Mbappe is the 9/2 favourite (Betway), just ahead of Harry Kane, with the pair the last two World Cup Golden Boot winners. If Mbappe fires like he did in Qatar, France could be impossible to stop, so I wouldn’t put anyone off the 14/1 on offer about the France/Mbappe double.

Kane is also highly reliable, but those two do make the prices for other contenders, and Ronaldo has to be an each-way fancy at 12/1 with William Hill.

The all-time leading goalscorer in European Championships has an insatiable appetite for goals, and got 10 in qualifying after losing his place in Qatar under Fernando Santos.

Roberto Martinez has shown no such desire to take him on, and has devised a plan to leave him up top and let others do the work.

Portugal are strongly fancied to go far in Germany, while they have a very good group alongside the Czechs, Turkey and Georgia, and with Ronaldo on penalty duties, he could well fill his boots.

Romelu Lukaku is also worth backing at 16s generally after grabbing 14 as Belgium qualified with ease. His reputation as a flat track bully isn’t a concern given an opening group containing Ukraine, Slovakia and Romania.

The Belgians score goals for fun, with Lukaku at the forefront, and he has a proven tournament pedigree, grabbing four at the 2018 World Cup and again in the Euros three years later, and a repeat of that tally will definitely be enough for place money at least.

At bigger odds, I’ll return to Portugal for my final contender, with Bruno Fernandes having great each-way claims at 50/1 with Sky Bet, who are paying five places.

The Manchester United captain ended the season in great form, and enjoys enhanced responsibility in the current Portugal side, with his scoring return ramping up as a result.

Fernandes has scored 16 times in his last 24 internationals, including six in qualifying, while he hardly ever misses a game and is built for tournament football, while he might even get moved onto penalties if Ronaldo is given a break late on in matches.

He is well worth a look at the 50/1, while Bet365 go 9/1 about him being the top Premier League scorer which is also worth backing.


Cristiano Ronaldo, e/w, 12/1 (William Hill);

Romelu Lukaku, e/w, 16/1 (General);

Bruno Fernandes, e/w, 50/1 (Sky Bet); top Premier League goalscorer, 9/1 (Bet365)

Rangnick no wreck-it Ralf for Austria

Ralf Rangnick will not be moving to Bayern Munich
Ralf Rangnick has done an excellent job at the Austrian helm and his side might be dark horses at Euro 2024 (Tim Goode/PA)

THROUGH no real fault of his own Ralf Rangnick became something of a laughing stock during his spell as interim manager of Manchester United.

However, the German has rebuilt his reputation as Austria boss to such an extent that he was able to turn down the Bayern Munich job.

He has moulded a side to be feared going into the Euros, having pushed Belgium all the way and eliminated Sweden in qualifying.

The Austrians go into the tournament without star man David Alaba, but midfielders Marcel Sabitzer and Konrad Laimer have had fine seasons with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich respectively.

Rangnick’s men have been drawn in a tough Group D alongside France and the Netherlands, and their high-pressing style could give the latter nightmares with Frenkie De Jong ruled out through injury.

It would be no surprise to see Austria finish second to France and they look worth a bet at 11/4 to be group runners-up.


l TURKEY were destroyed 6-1 by the Austrians in a March friendly and have toiled in their warm-up games, but it should not be forgotten that they topped their group in qualifying ahead of Croatia and Wales.

Vincenzo Montella’s team will have huge support thanks to the massive Turkish population in Germany and that could well see them bounce back to top form.

Drawn in Group F with Portugal, debutants Georgia and a struggling Czech Republic team, they should be capable of finishing second.

Inter’s Hakan Calhanoglu is one of the classiest playmakers in Italy, while Real Madrid youngster Arda Guler and Juventus starlet Kenan Yildiz provide a goal threat.

The 9/4 on offer with Sky Bet about a Portugal/Turkey straight forecast makes real appeal.


ANOTHER straight forecast of interest is Belgium/Ukraine in Group E at 5/2 (Bet Victor).

The Belgians may not be the force of a few years ago but are still the stand-out team in the section, and Ukraine look like a clear second-best ahead of Romania and Slovakia, their first two opponents.

Serhiy Rebrov has brought the bulk of the squad who won the U20 World Cup five years ago into the senior ranks, with Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin and La Liga top scorer Artem Dovbyk the leading lights, and they should reach the knock-out stages.


NEVER let it be said that I’m not a sad individual, and in one of my more tragic moments I trawled the last four major tournaments to see how many of the opening round of group games were 0-0 at half-time.

The answer was exactly half, with teams knowing the importance of not losing their first outing.

With the prices for 0-0 at half-time in the 12 round one ties ranging from 6/4 to 5/2 in Germany, this looks a rock-solid way to make a profit – albeit not a huge one – early on in a long month.


Austria to finish second in Group D, 11/4 (Paddy Power);

Portugal/Turkey, straight forecast in Group F, 9/4 (Sky Bet);

Belgium/Ukraine, straight forecast in Group E, 5/2 (Bet Victor)