Euro 2016: Are England no-hopers, dark horses or favourites?
Expectations of Three Lions are as confused as ever, but the team may not get a better chance to surprise the nation
France are the bookies favourites to win Euro 2016, repeating the feats of 1984 and 1998, when they triumphed in major tournaments on home soil. However, there is no clear frontrunner to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy on 10 July.
Usual suspects Spain and Germany join the host nation as the top tips, but England are fourth in the betting, thanks partly to a comfortable draw. So do they really stand a chance of ending 50 years of hurt?
The claims of the three top teams are not entirely convincing, says the Daily Telegraph. "That France are the favourites to win Euro 2016 speaks volumes about the lack of any single frontrunner."
France will be without the exiled Karim Benzema and the squad has been rocked by allegations of racism. Manager Didier Deschamps is also missing injured players such as Aymeric Laporte and Kurt Zouma. "These are issues that could certainly end up distracting the team," says the Telegraph.
"Spain's capitulation at the last World Cup showed that they do indeed have weaknesses, while Germany have lost to Ireland, France, England and Slovakia in their last seven matches," it adds.
However, the BBC's pundits find it hard to see past France. Out of 20 experts, 15 predicted a victory for the hosts. Three of the naysayers backed Spain and Germany - and not one thought England would win.
That, however, could work in the Three Lions' favour. Possibly for the first time ever, "England go to a major tournament without so much as a hint of expectation from back home," says the Telegraph. "The pressure is off."
That, though, is something of a canard. The same refrain was heard before the 2014 World Cup, when England's group stage exit elicited an angry reaction rather than a shrug of the shoulders.
Perhaps unfortunately for the squad, their "youthful dynamism" has brought "fresh hope" - and that means it is time to deliver, says James Olley in the London Evening Standard: "There are no more caveats, no more excuses."
He adds: "England must peak when it matters most. Roy Hodgson’s future is on the line as a country sacrifices its heart once more upon the altar of hope... England need to finally embrace tournament football, not feel inhibited by it. This is Hodgson’s third crack at an international competition with England but his side need to reap the benefits that his experience should yield."
Once again, England must walk the line between no-hopers and favourites. This impossible position is nicely illustrated up by Jamie Redknapp in the Daily Mail.
One the one hand, he picks the side as his dark horse of the tournament. "Nobody expects us to win it and we've got a good young squad," he says, before anointing England as one of the top four teams in Europe. "You look at this squad and think they should get to the semi-finals. It will be a major disappointment if they don't."
Perhaps a better bet for the title is Belgium, a team that has somehow generated less hype but has, on paper, a better squad than England. Two years ago, they were tipped by many to win the World Cup but were beaten by Argentina in the quarter-finals.
They will hope to improve on that performance this time round and with Eden Hazard injury free and approaching his best towards the end of the season, they could be the genuine article.
"You only have to look at the quality in their squad. As we well know, 'golden generations' often flatter to deceive. But expect the Belgians to make a major impact in France," says Sami Mokbel of the Mail.