England, Wales, Russia, and Slovakia will slug it out for Euro 2016 Pool B honours at Euro 2016.
Europe's Premier International football tournament gets underway on Friday the 10th of June. Football fans will be in for an absolute treat with Europe's finest 16 sides going all out to be crowned champions of the continent.
Our European football scribe has been hard at work composing his preview. After weeks of intense research, he has come up with a full preview for each group.
We'll take a look at Group B below.
England | Russia | Slovakia | Wales
Saturday 11 June: Wales vs Slovakia / England vs Russia
Wednesday 15: June Russia vs Slovakia
Thursday 16 June: England vs Wales
Monday 20 June: Russia vs Wales / Slovakia vs England
To Win Outright: 8/1 | To Win Group: 83/100
Roy Hodgson has assembled an exciting and uncharacteristically youthful squad which has the English media buzzing with anticipation. Their striking options are plentiful. In Harry Kane, they have the prototypical all-rounder while Jamie Vardy provides that incision of pace that they have lacked in recent tournaments.
Wayne Rooney has been talismanic for United since his return from injury while Sturridge and young Rashford will be struggling for playing time.
My issue with England may be in the midfield area. Jack Wilshire has barely kicked a ball this season while Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling’s respective season’s derailed dramatically in the closing weeks. Danny Drinkwater’s exclusion seems to intimate that Hodgson is aiming to play an attractive, open brand of football.
Don’t get me wrong, this is an extremely talented English side and fans of the Three Lions have cause for optimism. It just feels like the consistency provided by Noble and Drinkwater has been excluded at the expense of more mercurial midfield entities.
Key Player: Harry Kane
The Tottenham Hotspur striker has polished his all-round game and has turned into a superstar of the world football.
Player to Watch: Eric Dier
The Spurs’ holding midfielder is going to prove crucial in allowing England the freedom to attack as Hodgson would like. He adopts an almost Beckenbauer-esque role and will be crucial to their chances.
RussiaTo Win Outright: 70/1 | To Win Group: 33/10
Russia are a side in something of a generational malaise. The majority of their defensive and midfield unit are in and around thirty, a fact that could catch up to the squad should they progress further in the comp.
Coach Leon Slutsky has done a commendable job since replacing Fabio Capello but will have a tough time harnessing this ageing squad.
Midfielder Roman Neustadster is the only player who actually plays outside of the Russian domestic league. hat could give the Russian’s an element of surprise.
Akinfeev will bring his immense experience to goalkeeping duties while Sergei Ignashevich brings stability to the midfield. Aleksandar Kokorin brings some vigour to the forward line while Alan Dzagoev misses out with a broken foot.
Key Player: Igor Akinfeev
The CSKA Moscow goalkeeper is immensely experienced and will probably be kept fairly busy against more dynamic sides.
Player to Watch: Aleksandar Kokorin
The powerfully built centre-forward will be the fulcrum of Russia’s attack.
SlovakiaTo Win Outright: 150/1 | To Win Group: 7/2
Jan Kozak’s Slovakian team is quite an enigmatic unit, one that could surprise sides if they are underestimated. The manager himself actually has his own personal love affair with the competition, having finished 3rd in the 1980 European Championship with the Czech Republic.
Slovakia managed to make it into the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and therefore have some tournament street cred.
Martin Skrtel and Marik Hamsik are certainly going to be crucial to their side’s success. The Liverpool defender has had his injury concerns but remains his side’s proverbial Rock of Gibraltar. Hamsik is the kinetic creative force that keeps the entire beast ticking.
Slovakia have a well-balanced side but are in an extremely tough group and will find it tough to progress.
Key Player: Marik Hamsik
The Napoli midfielder is the inspirational bundle of creative spark in much the same way as Sheqiri is for Switzerland. He is going to have his work cut out outshining the likes of Gareth Bale and Harry Kane.
Player to Watch: Adam Nemac
The young striker has great potential and will provide a focal point for Hamsik.
To Win Outright: 80/1 | To Win Group: 9/1
Chris Coleman’s side will be feeling extremely confident going into a group that is comparatively favourable, especially looking at some of the other death traps floating around.
Clearly having possession of a world class player like Gareth Bale will inject confidence into any side. The Welsh magician plays the jazz while the rest of the side works feverishly to complement him.
Ramsey and Allen provide balance to the midfield while Ledley seems to have miraculously shaken off a broken leg sustained only three weeks ago. Ashley Williams is a colossal defensive presence and will have the added benefit of knowing all the idiosyncratic foibles of his opposing strikers.
Wales will be quietly confident that they have the talent and depth in the squad that can challenge for top spot.
Key Player: Gareth Bale
The man is almost godlike in the air and is also a supreme dead-ball specialist. Not to mention his phenomenal pace and mesmeric dribbling ability.
Player to Watch: Sam Voakes
The livewire forward provides boundless enthusiasm and pace and more importantly draws defenders away, opening up space for Bale to exploit.
Who Will Progress?
Wow, this is a tough one. While it’s always best to approach a new dawn in English football with a pinch of roughly hewn scepticism, it’s hard to not see the potential of Hodgson’s side. The message of an aggressive approach is encouraging and may give England the edge. Wales, powered by the irrepressible Bale, will be my second place finisher. I honestly see Slovakia finishing above a languorous Russian outfit. This group has a favourable draw in the sense that the second placed side will play the runner-up of Group F, clearly the weakest group in the competition.