The footballing Gods have been smiling down on England over the past few days as they prepare to kick off Euro 2016 with a win over Russia this evening.
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Knocks to defenders Chris Smalling and Ryan Bertrand are all Roy Hodgson has head to deal with ahead of this evening’s opener versus Russia.
Though the manager appears to have put some selection problems on his own plate by switching formation in recent friendlies and dropping Wayne Rooney into a deeper role.
The England manager has played Rooney as a central midfielder recently despite playing the majority of qualifying as the striker where he was the nation’s top scorer. Between those two roles he played number 10.
Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has a sensational campaign, capped off by winning the Premier League after finishing one goal behind Golden Boot winner Harry Kane. However, Hodgson has trialled Vardy as a left forward instead of his role at club level. Kane to score and England to win is 5/2 with William Hill.
Meanwhile Russia head into Euro 2016 with a batch of injuries. Playmakers Alan Dzagoev and Denis Cheryshev mean Leonid Slutsky’s team can almost waive the white flag before a ball is kicked.
Holding midfielder Igor Denisov was ruled out of the tournament through injury a couple of days ago, as is former-Chelsea man Yuri Zhirkov.
Russia haven’t had much in the way of young talent coming through lately as the manager brings an ageing squad to France two years before they host the World Cup.
Slutsky favours the popular 4-2-3-1 formation which will likely see Artur Yusupov start alongside Roman Shirokov only a few days after replacing Denisov in the 23-man squad. Has the Zenit Saint Petersburg had enough time to prepare? He’s only played twice for his country before.
Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev set the tone in Brazil two years ago with a howler in conceding their first goal in their opener. They were promptly eliminated from the group stage with only two points and two goals. The combined age of centre-backs Sergei Ignashevich and Aleksei Berezutski is 69 – it will be interesting to see how they deal with the pace of Raheem Sterling and Jamie Vardy if either get a chance to run at them.
Russia do pose some threats going forward. Sole striker Artem Dzyuba scored eight goals in qualifying whilst Aleksandr Kokorin down the left flank could be an issue for Kyle Walker. Schalke 04’s Roman Neustädter is the exception. 22 of the 23-man Russia squad plays its football domestically; only one less than the England team who all play in either the Premier League or Championship.
All this points in the way of an England victory in Marseille this evening and one that will surely fire them on to win the group as they finish with Wales and Slovakia.
William Hill are giving a tempting price of 10/11 for England to start their campaign with a win. You can also get 8/1 on a 2-0 win.