Euro 2016 Preview – Group B
England[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”Nickname of the English team” link=”” color=”#16989D” class=”” size=”24″]Three Lions [/perfectpullquote] Two years ago at the Brazil World Cup, England were out of the tournament after only two matches and their fans were pessimistic about their chance of ever regaining the glory days. Since then the Three Lions have cruised through their Euro qualifying group and at the same time unearthed a whole load of talent that many think could bring back the glory to English football. Harry Kane, Deli Alli, Eric Dier, Jamie Vardy, John Stones and Marcus Rashford have all made their mark in the past 18 months or in the case of United’s Rashford, the past three months. It is a youthful and attacking squad and if England were to get off to a good start against Russia, then enjoy a bit of luck and maybe win a penalty shoot-out (or two) then it may be possible for them to dream of winning a tournament for only the second time in their history. If Leicester can do it…
Russia[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”#16989D” class=”” size=”24″]Possible dark horses?[/perfectpullquote]Russia was another side at the last World Cup to disappoint and having removed Fabio Capello (another similarity to their first-game rivals England) and appointed CSKA Moscow coach Leonid Slutsky as coach their fortunes improved. They finished second behind Austria in qualifying and will be expecting to make the knock-out stages in France, particularly if their star striker Artem Dzyuba from Zenit plays well. After that, there is little or no expectation that the team can emulate the side of 2008 that made the semi-finals.
Slovakia[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”#16989D” class=”” size=”24″]First time at the European Championships[/perfectpullquote]Finishing runners-up to Spain in qualifying for this, their first ever, European Championship finals has given Slovakia a lot of confidence. They have players at top clubs around Europe (Hamsik is at Napoli, Skrtel at Liverpool and Juraj Kucka at Milan) and with a strong work ethic will be hard to beat at these finals. It would be a huge surprise for them to beat England but having defeated Spain in the qualifiers anything can happen – the opener against the Welsh will be crucial.
Wales[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”#16989D” class=”” size=”24″]Bale has won two Champions League titles[/perfectpullquote] This is the first time that Wales have played in a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden but despite this lack of tournament experience the Welsh are quietly confident of progressing to the knock-out stages. Of course, their main star is Champions League winner Gareth Bale but they have a whole host of Premier league players that they can call on including Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsay, Liverpool’s Joe Allen and Swansea City captain Ashley Williams. If they can get something from their first game against the Slovaks then the knock-out stage is a real possibility.
England are favourites to top the group but this group will be a lot closer than many anticipate. Indeed, there could be a host of draws after the first two set of matches meaning that one win could be enough to see a team topping the group. England should do that and Wales may join them though Slovakia cannot be ruled out.
can get something: In football this means a draw or a win
were pessimistic: Not optimistic; feeling down
Three Lions: The nickname of the England team
cruised through: Gone through; passed through without any trouble
emulate: Equal; do the same as
will be hard to beat: Difficult to break down
a whole host of: A lot of; a group of
topping the group: Coming first in the group