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Euro2016 - Group B Preview

Euro2016 - Group B Preview
Monday,June 6,2016


11/06/2016 8pm Russia Marseille

16/06/2016 2pm Wales Lens

20/06/2016 8pm Slovakia St-Etienne



I’ve waited until the squad was announced and all the preparation games were played before I started to write about England. Like many, I was excited, this looked like a fresh young and attacking England side, if a little naive at the back. My optimism centred around two things, that Hodgson picked a fully fit and fighting squad and he didn’t put square pegs in round holes. The omission of Danny Drinkwater in favour of Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere put paid to point one, the inclusion of five strikers in the squad put paid to point two.


England qualified with 10 wins from 10 invariably by playing with one up front. Harry Kane was the Premier League’s top scorer last season, only the 12th player to score 20 Premier League goals in consecutive seasons and one of the hottest young strikers in Europe. He should start up front, he is our best chance of winning the Euros. Jamie Vardy may have had a stellar season, but Kane scored more goals last season and is more suited to England’s tactics. Crow barring Jamie Vardy into the team at the expense of your preferred formation won’t work. The same goes for Wayne Rooney - Man Utd have to play him as a midfielder because they have better options in attack and the guy is on £300,000 per week. England don’t pay his wages, so shouldn’t care as to whether he wastes away on the bench. Rooney is a centre forward and he’s a centre forward who isn’t playing very well, therefore don’t play him! Playing Dele Alli in the hole behind Kane would be a much better fit. Sadly it won’t happen and England will appear laboured against each opponent and may not even win the group. They’re currently around 4/6 to do this.


You have to go back to 2007 for the last time England played Russia, 2009 for the last time they played Slovakia and 2011 for the last time they played Wales. History will suggest a favourable record against all three sides, but this is England!


England 5-a-side Fancies

Picking defenders may not be the best strategy with England - the shut out against 10-man Portugal was the first since France in November 2015 - but England conceding goals is a recent phenomenon. They conceded three goals in ten games in qualifying and kept eight clean sheets. Joe Hart and Chris Smalling are probably the only guaranteed starters and whilst England may be prone to the odd mistake at the back, the Man City stopper can be counted on to bail England out. I’ll also be picking Harry Kane, he could finish as top scorer if England do well.





11/06/2016 8pm England Marseille

16/06/2016 5pm Slovakia Lille

20/06/2016 8pm Wales Toulouse



Russia are second favourites for Group B, with a largely homegrown squad. It is a demonstration of how well funded the Russian Premier League is that only Roman Neustadter plays his football in Germany.


In Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Kokorin they have an attack that is familiar with one another. Coupled with that they have vast experience at the back. Akinfeev, Ignashevich and Berezutski have 296 caps combined which should stand them in good stead.



Russia lit up this tournament eight years ago with a delightfully small attacking midfielder. Aleksandar Golovin is much taller than Andrei Arshavin was, but he could have a similar impact. I’m still mourning the loss of Alan Dzagoev at Euro2016, but Golovin and Dzyuba could be worth dabbling with.





11/06/2016 5pm Wales Bordeaux

16/06/2016 5pm Russia Lille

20/06/2016 8pm England St-Etienne



Slovakia should not be 9/1 to win Group B. They are a good side that have beaten Germany, Switzerland and Spain in the past two years. Their squad offers a breadth of experience in European football and their manager has taken a Slovakian club side to the Champions League group stage before it was trendy.


The lynchpin of the side is still Marek Hamsik of Napoli, but he’s ably supported by Sestak and Mak. Slovakia have only picked two forwards in their squad, so I’d be expecting a 4-5-1 if I were you.


Recent results have been great. The Slovaks beat Spain at home in qualifying, Switzerland in a post-qualifying friendly and most impressively Germany 3-1 last weekend. It was a fairly under strength German side, but they will certainly trouble second place. They start with Wales too, who should be group patsy, despite their FIFA World ranking. A good start and it’s on to Russia, where a point could already have sealed qualification.





11/06/2016 5pm Slovakia Bordeaux

16/06/2016 2pm England Lens

20/06/2016 8pm Russia Toulouse



Wales have done brilliantly to make the tournament and it is testament to the spirit in their camp that they really believe that they can qualify from this group. Having one of the best players in the world in your squad can help a group immensely, but stop Gareth Bale and you stop Wales. Stop him from getting the ball and you stop Wales. The second option is a lot easier to implement than the first FYI!


Wales have fallen into the English trap of picking players that are clearly not fit. Joe Ledley broke his leg five weeks ago, he will still not be fully fit by the tournament end. That said, they are relatively well stocked in midfield with Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and Andy King likely to pick up the slack. However, Wales managed just 11 goals in qualifying, in a group that contained Andorra. They failed to score in four of their 10 group games, registering blanks against Bosnia (twice), Israel and Belgium. They will be durable and set out not to get beat, but I think they’ll flounder.



England should have the quality to win the group at a canter, but I’m concerned that there will be too many square pegs in round holes. If England falter, Slovakia look well drilled enough to make an impression beyond the second round. Russia should also qualify, but I don’t see it ending well for Wales.



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