By Antony Jordan
This Monday sees Group B of the 2016 European Championships come to a close as England take on Slovakia and Wales clash with Russia in two games that could see top of the table England miss out and bottom of the group Russia still progress. It is all to play for in Toulouse and Saint-Étienne but who’ll make the last 16 stages and who’ll be heading home early from France?
We preview both matches with online sportsbook Bet365.com to provide our best Group B Euro 2016 picks.
Despite having collected just a single point in their two matches so far and failed to win in their final three warm up games before this tournament so see them winless in five matches it is the Russian side that is favoured to triumph against Wales this Monday night and leapfrog them to put themselves in a prime position for a place in the last 16 stage. Although they have underperformed so far as they were second best to England for 91 minutes before they took their only point with an injury time goal against the run of play and found themselves 2-0 down to Slovakia at half time before rallying in the second 45 minutes, but they fell short. Still they have history on their side against Wales with three wins in three since 2003 and they can still make the knockout stages with victory in this match, plus they have, at times, looked capable going forwards despite missing that killer edge up front.
Wales, however, do have that touch of quality in their attack in Gareth Bale and the Real Madrid man has proven to be deadly with a dead ball so far as he scored against Slovakia and England from free kicks. Russia will be concerned by Bale as their goalkeeper has not always looked solid and he will test him in this match as they aim to bounce back from an injury time defeat to England. A point in that game would have seen upset the odds and already qualify for the last 16 stage, but Daniel Sturridge has put England in pole position to win Group B. Wales have shown that they are no pushovers in France already and with history just 90 minutes away we can see them securing passage to the next phase of Euro 2016 by taking something against the Russians in Toulouse.
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This match screams goals to us as both clashes against Wales and Russia have seen both teams score for both Slovakia and England while the last three meetings between these two sides have produced ten goals, with the last meeting in 2009 seeing England run out 4-0 winners. Add to this the possibility of missing out on a place in the last 16 of Euro 2016 if they are defeated in this match and you can be sure that both sides are going to test the goalkeepers of the other sides as often as possible.
Slovakia bounced back well from their opening loss to Wales with a 2-1 win over Russia as their key man Marek Hamšík scored a stunning winning goal to see Slovakia record their first win at the Euros. He will once again be the main man for Slovakia as he creates and gets forward to take chances too, but can he lead his side to the next phase in France?
England manager Roy Hodgson stuck with the same side that failed to kill off the game against the Russians for the first half against Wales and they found themselves behind at that point of the game, but after bringing on Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge at half time they claimed a 2-1 victory as they were more direct and ruthless in front of goal. The manner in which they won – with almost the last kick of the ball – will also boost the side and if Hodgson keeps faith in these two half time introductions from the second game of the group we can see England taking the points in this match, even though Slovakia will not be easily defeated, and we are backing this outcome. We also feel that goals has value in this match too.