At 8pm tonight, England open their Euro 16 accounts against Russia.
England have high hopes on very young shoulders, with many veterans calling this the best England squad since ’66. I disagree, but what is for sure is that there is a promising young side that, if allowed creative freedom by Woy, can play exciting football.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Russia and Wales (and possibly even Slovakia) will prove stern opposition for Woy’s boys, and their first test is against a Russia side that came second in qualifying Group G. However, they are without a victory in their last 3 matches, and they have lost Dzagoev and Denisov, two vital midfielders, to injury. Their experienced defence is ageing, however, and England’s newly found pace and skill could trouble them. What Woy must be aware of is the Russian strength going forward – Dzyuba scored 29 in all comps for his club last season, and is in super form ahead of the tournament. One player that the England backline must look out for is Oleg Shatov, a pacy winger who superb first touch, control and skill.
England, on the other hand, have never won their opening games at the finals of the European Championship. But their superb attacking talents should prove to be too much for Russia. Roy’s problem is that his attacking trident of Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy didn’t work out for him against Portugal, looking quite lacklustre and lopsided. If he is to restore his team’s attacking balance, he may have to drop players like Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli.
Defensively, England aren’t the strongest either. Chris Smalling appears to have SWIFT-ly SHAKEN OFF (get it?) his injury scare from earlier this week, but Gary Cahill has been shaky this season, and with only John Stones to back him up that is one department where England could be tested by Russia’s potency going forward.
All the signs, however, show that England will be too strong for the Russians, and I am going for a 2-0 win to England, with goals from Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney.
My Ideal Line-Up for England (vs. Russia)
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