Due to the highly-anticipated clash between home nations England and Wales, Group B fixtures are bound to generate plenty of interest in the United Kingdom, but seeing as how Russia and Slovakia complete the star-studded line-up, this is likely to be one of the most interesting groups at the tournament finals. The teams are pretty evenly matched at the moment, but we have taken some time to study each of those, their strengths and weaknesses, before presenting our predictions for all four sides with regards to where they are most likely to finish in Group B standings.
Boasting a pretty disappointing record at major tournaments, England cannot exactly afford to get their hopes up ahead of the Euro 2016 finals, but they have every reason to be cautiously optimistic about their chances. The Three Lions didn’t drop a single point in the qualifying campaign, they’ve got a number of in-form Premier League stars hungry for success and appear to boast decent strength in depth. With Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy both scoring goals for fun and Wayne Rooney producing some solid showings in the middle of the park, England could be in for a first successful major competition after quite a while, and even though they will face a number of stern tests in Group B, we are backing them to finish top of the group and set up a clash against weaker opposition in the first knockout stage.
Prediction: England to finish in 1st place
Betting Odds: 1.83 (5/6) @WilliamHill
Russia were in danger of missing out on the tournament finals as Fabio Capello had made a real mess of the national team, but CSKA Moscow boss Leonid Slutsky quickly made things right and showed everyone just how well this team can play. Sbornaya Komanda won last four qualifiers to book their ticket to France and they arrive at the showpiece tournament with the squad packed with Russian Premier League talent. Boasting a great deal of international experience as well as several talented youngsters, Russia seem ready to challenge for the first place in Group B, although their chances of finishing top of the group have been damaged by injuries to Alan Dzagoev, Yuri Zhirkov and Oleg Kuzmin. Nevertheless, the second place is theirs to lose.
Prediction: Russia to finish in 2nd place
Betting Odds: 3.00 (2/1) @Betfair
Even if Marek Hamsik, Martin Skrtel and Juraj Kucka are the only high-profile players in the squad, Slovakia have been exceeding expectations of late, proving a tough nut to crack even for Europe’s top sides. Apart from occasional costly mistakes, Repre tend to perform really well at the back, as witnessed by two clean sheets in matches against very good Ukraine side in the qualifiers, while victories over Spain, Switzerland and Iceland prove they’ve got the quality to play at this level. Slovakia lack the attacking potential and will largely depend on the inspiration of Marek Hamsik, while with key defender Martin Skrtel in poor form and lacking first team action, we don’t think they can finish above England or Russia, although Repre should leave Wales trailing in their wake.
Prediction: Slovakia to finish in 3rd place
Betting Odds: 3.10 (21/10) @Betfair
Wales are another side that will be making their maiden European Championship appearance in France, and they were quite unfortunate to be placed in such a strong group. The Dragons have shown a great deal of promise in the qualifying campaign, but we should not forget that they did not exactly face world-class opposition apart from Belgium, and also that they struggled against Andorra, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Israel. Wales will be heavily relying on the counter-attacking approach and star players Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, but chances are Joe Ledley will be sorely missed and with no goalscoring striker in the squad, the Dragons might not be able to avoid finishing bottom of Group B.
Prediction: Wales to finish in 4th place
Betting Odds: 3.25 (9/4) @bet365
Group B Fixtures
11th June @18:00 – Wales vs Slovakia
11th June @21:00 – England vs Russia
15th June @15:00 – Russia vs Slovakia
16th June @15:00 – England vs Wales
20th June @21:00 – Slovakia vs England
20th June @21:00 – Russia vs Wales