Saturday 11th June. 8PM. ITV 1
Having coasted their way to the finals in perfect fashion, the real action finally begins for Roy Hodgson’s men on Saturday evening as they take on Group B rivals Russia at the Stade Velodrome.
England enter the tournament with modest expectations but high optimism. However, those feelings could change entirely depending how things pan out. The nation will be praying for a positive start.
Come on England!
Hodgson To Make Big Decisions
England’s warm-ups did little to clear up Hodgson’s thinking regarding the starting XI, but the Three Lions chief would certainly rather have those options than not. The big question will be whether the team sets out as a diamond 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1. Both systems have their positives and negatives, but the former will almost certainly get more out of attacking duo Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.
Assuming that is Hodgson’s front pairing, the other big question regards the role of skipper Wayne Rooney. Does the nation’s leading scorer in history operate in the hole, in a deeper role, or from the bench? Only Hodgson can be 100% sure.
Meanwhile, questions still remain over the back four, especially after Ryan Bertrand suffered a slight knock earlier in the week. Hodgson also has a decision to make over the central defensive pairing, with Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill and John Stones all boasting reason to believe they’ll get the nod.
It will be fascinating to see what team Hodgson goes with. Whichever XI is selected, a fast start is a must, especially after the disappointment of World Cup 2014. If England do start their campaign with a bang, though, it could be a very exciting tournament for the Three Lions.
Russia Out To Underline Resurgence
It hasn’t been the easiest spell for Russia, but things have picked up since Leonid Slutsky replaced former England boss Fabio Capello. A return of 20 points from a possible 30 was enough to see them qualify, and they’ll be eager to start their Group B campaign with an upset against the group favourites.
After reaching the semi-finals in 2008, Russia have struggled to replicate that success, failing to escape the group phase in any major tournament since. However, the underdogs will be aware of England’s poor record in opening group matches, and will look to pile the pressure on here.
Russia certainly boast the experience needed to give England a test, with the likes of Igor Akinfeev Denis Glushakov and Roman Shirokov all boasting plenty of caps. Meanwhile, strikers Aleksandr Kokorin and Artyom Dzyuba will hope to take advantage of any English shortcomings.
The World Cup 2018 hosts are underdogs for a reason, but they won’t make it easy for England. It could be a cracker in Marseille.
England v Russia Betting
England enter their Group B opener as odds on favourites, but Bet365’s price of 17/20 suggests it won’t be a walk in the park. Russia are available at 7/2 while the draw is 23/10.
Whatever happens, England have no choice but to place their focus on attack at Euro 2016. The attacking quality easily outweighs the defensive talents. As such, the Three Lions could be involved in some very interesting contests.
We think England will get the result in this one, but they might need to score twice in order to do it. We’re backing them to do just that.
England have some truly fascinating attacking stars, but none are as exciting as Dele Alli. The Spurs man has enjoyed a meteoric rise since making the switch from MK Dons and is now widely accepted as the future of the national side.
Young stars have often excelled for England on the big stage. While people will be looking to Marcus Rashford, Alli is the boy likely to become a man in France. We’re hoping he’ll do it with a big performance against Russia.