Euro 2016 Group B of the 2016 European Championships in France this summer will attract the most attention from the home nations as both England and Wales are competing with Russia and Slovakia to move out from the group stages and into the knockout phase of the competition. The English and Welsh sides are both odds on favourites to qualify from the group, but can they take a 1-2 ahead of the Russians?
We preview the teams in Group B and their chances at Euro 2016 with online sportsbook Bet365.com to provide you with our best Euro 2016 picks from this second grouping of four sides.
Euro 2016 Group B Fixtures:
11/06/2016 – Wales v Slovakia
11/06/2016 – England v Russia
15/06/2016 – Russia v Slovakia
16/06/2016 – England v Wales
20/06/2016 – Slovakia v England
20/06/2016 – Russia v Wales
Group B Winner Odds (To qualify to KO) with Bet365.com:
The English national side has a long and illustrious history in the European Championships having played in eight previous tournaments and reached the final four stage on two occasions. They did not qualify for the 2008 competition, but did reach the last eight stage in 2004 and 2012, and after becoming the first side to qualify for this competition in France as they won all ten of their qualifying games they will arrive in France full of confidence.
Roy Hodgson has selected a squad that covers both experience and youthful talent as they aim to win their first ever European Championship title. They have been hit by a couple of serious injuries with goalkeeper Jack Butland and striker Danny Welbeck both missing out on the tournament, but their goalkeeping, midfielder and attacking lineups are all second to none. There are questions over the defence at this level despite conceding just three goals in the qualification campaign, but with wins over France and Germany since the end of 2015 the side that won the World Cup 50 years ago this summer will believe that they stand a good chance a moving through the group easily.
Since changing from the Soviet Union and first qualifying for the European Championship as Russia in 1996 this nation has made four appearances in the competition, but has fallen at the group stage in three of these. The highlight of these four appearances and the three World Cup tournaments reached in this time was the 2008 competition where they followed Spain out of the group then defeated the Dutch in the quarter finals before falling at the final four stage to the Spaniards. Can they escape the group this time around?
They will be confident of doing so as the top two sides and the four highest third place teams from the six groups all move into the last 16 phase, but things will be tough for Russia. They have seen a large number of imported players coming into the Russian Premier League in recent years and this has seen them have a smaller talent pool to choose from for the national side and while they have plenty of experience in the squad for this tournament almost 50% of the side are 30 or older.
As well as this they only qualified for this competition two points ahead of Sweden (and eight points behind Austria) and this came about only after they won their final four group games following the sacking of former England manager Fabio Capello. If they continue this end of qualification campaign form then they stand a chance at moving into the knockout stages, but are they consistent enough to do so?
The Welsh national side makes their debut at the European Championships having only ever played in one FIFA tournament – the 1958 World Cup – where they reached the Quarter Finals. This Welsh side would give anything to be able to repeat that performance in France this summer and after finishing second to Belgium in the qualifying round with six wins and three draws in ten matches they will be full of self-belief that they can at least challenge to exit the group.
The majority of the Welsh squad is not filled with the quality that you will see with sides like England, France, Germany and Spain but they have showed time and time again in recent years that they have a great team spirit that can get them through some of the most challenging of games. Add to this fantastic togetherness they have some world class players that can add the talent and quick thinking needed to turn a game in world record signing Gareth Bale of Real Madrid and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey.
If they everything goes perfectly, Wales do have the toughness as a side and the individual brilliance needed to win matches and perhaps move into the knockout stages in France.
The Slovakian side may be the big outsiders to progress from Group B of the 2016 European Championships, but they certainly impressed on their way to this competition as finished second in Group C to Spain. The Spanish side lost only one match on their march to the Euros and that defeat came at the hands of Slovakia so despite being thought so lowly of by the bookies they will know that they can compete with the best in Europe on their day.
Their only previous appearance at a FIFA competition – the 2010 World Cup in South Africa – saw them upset the odds to see them progress to the knockout phase behind Paraguay in the group by eliminating the Italians. They were edged out by the Dutch in the last 16 round, but again they showed that they can compete and are more than capable of upsetting the odds.
However, the trio of strikers selected as part of the provisional squad for the Euros have netted just seven goals between them and they will need to work hard to overcome the lack of goals netted by their selections for France.
With the array of young talent that England have available to them in both midfield and up front with the likes of Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Ross Barkley, Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane amongst others we cannot see them being challenged by either Russia or Slovakia in their matches. Of course the local rivalry between themselves and Wales will see something extra added to their clash in Lens could see the English beaten, especially if Ramsey and Bale, both of whom are very familiar with the English squad, are fit and in form.
Of the other three sides who will progress? We feel that the Welsh side have more of an attacking edge than the Slovakians but, depending on which Russian side shows up, any of these three sides could quite easily find themselves in the knockout stages of this summer’s European Championships. As such, we are placing just a single bet on the Group B action with Bet365.com.