Group B Final Round Preview

Games of the Day
Slovakia vs. England, Saint-Etienne, 20:00
Russia vs. Wales, Toulouse, 20:00

England – 4pts
Wales – 3pts
Slovakia – 3pts
Russia – 1pt

As Euro 2016 rolls into the final round of group fixtures there is both relief and sadness; it is quite the commitment to watch three live games per day and remain a functioning adult, but no 5pm game on Monday will leave an insurmountable void, filled only with local news, Home and Away and (gulp) The One Show. Then there is the entire lack of live games on Thursday and Friday; it’s almost like there is something more important than football happening instead?

For England, some kind of further involvement is almost assured going into their game with Slovakia in St.Etienne on Monday evening. A third place finish beckons should they slip up against Slovakia and Wales triumph (or Russia beat Wales by 2 goals, unlikely though that seems). Roy and his rovers could find themselves with a much tougher game against group winners in the next round should they scrape through on 4 points.

Wales would appear to have enough to take care of one of the worst sides in the tournament and make UEFA’s life easier by sending Russia home. Chris Coleman and his side will aspire to top the group while guarding against complacency, but given the defensive nature of their performance against England, it may not be so easy for them to change mentality and go for the win against a deep lying Russian defence.

The contest between Marek Hamsik and Eric Dier will surely be key to the final standings in group B. Dier has excelled in the opening games but Slovakia’s dorsal-finned talisman will provide fresh danger to England’s backline. While there are question marks over who will start up front and, less fairly, as to whether Joe Hart should keep his place in the side, the biggest question is whether the players are good enough to get results while playing in unfamiliar positions.

So far Hodgson has picked the players he wants and worried about the positions afterwards but time will tell if square peg/round-hole selections will be punished against classier opponents. Chris Coleman has fewer decisions to make and will be charged instead with picking the team up and making sure the heart-break of the England defeat does not linger.

For England and Wales, Monday night’s fixtures are a chance to gain some momentum, build on the positive intent shown so far and maybe score a few morale boosting goals. In an open tournament, progress will come down to belief and timing; if England can peak at the right time then a semi-final place is realistic. Get ready, the between-match training camp pieces are likely to get moodier and more serious from here on in.


Andrew Grillo, The Sweeper Football Blog

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