Group B finishes on Monday as England take on Slovakia and Wales face Russia with all four teams still in contention to finish in the top two and reach the second round.
Leaders England need victory to guarantee top spot, whilst defeat could see them drop as low as third. William Hill Euro 2016 betting has England has favourites to win Group B but they must be wary of going into the latter stages of the game on a draw given the difficulty they’ve faced in scoring late goals (Wales result notwithstanding).
Russia start the evening bottom of the group and need a win to have any chance of progressing, but are the only team that cannot win the group, but could decide it’s fate – a win would almost certainly rule out Wales while a draw could make life difficult for England / Slovakia if they draw too.
Here’s a look at the final Group B games:
England vs Slovakia
Roy Hodgson is expected to make as many as six changes to his side with an eye on the second round. With a 23-man squad of which all but third choice goalkeeper Tom Heaton, play in the Premier League, it is understandable that the England boss would have confidence in rotating his squad versus weaker opponents.
Many considered Slovakia the weakest of the four teams in Group B heading into Euro 2016. They were beaten 2-1 by Wales in their opener after some poor defending and only really threatening Chris Coleman’s side on two occasions. Not that England have been convincing in either of their games so far.
Credit to the debutants as they beat Russia 2-1 in their second game to put them in a position to reach the second round. Marek Hamšík and Vladimír Weiss both scored excellent solo efforts before they were holding on in the final half hour.
Indeed, the Slovakian defence does look weak. They allowed both Wales and Russia a number of opportunities – something England didn’t do in their two matches versus the same nations – allowing four shots on target in total over 180 minutes.
Provided Hodgson brings Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy into the starting lineup then you can be sure England are going to get on the scoresheet on Monday night, if not more than once. Rumours that Wayne Rooney may be rested should not cause too many problems in attack as potential replacements Jack Wilshere or Jordan Henderson can both control the game from the middle of the park.
With the exception of a couple of players, it isn’t a very talented Slovakia side. The Premier League players available to the England manager should all be capable of getting the three points to top the group.
Wales vs Russia
Neither of these sides have looked particularly impressive in France so far. Wales were thankful to some poor goalkeeper to take an early lead versus Slovakia in their European Championship debut as Gareth Bale’s long free kick down the middle found its way in.
They were unable to deal with two impressive runs from Slovakia – the second led to their second half equaliser despite Chris Coleman’s side being in control of the game at the time.
Hal Robson-Kanu bailed them out as he scored an historic late winner after Martin Škrtel had backed off a stumbling Aaron Ramsey dribbling the ball into the area to set up the winner.
In their second game, Coleman’s side took the lead against the run of play just before half-time with a Gareth Bale free kick against England that Joe Hart should not have let in. Again, they could not hold onto the lead and this time they never restored it either.
First, Jamie Vardy poked home from close range after a misguided header from Ashley Williams before Daniel Sturridge ran through the Welsh defence to score a dramatic stoppage time winner for the Three Lions.
Defending like this will make it difficult for Wales to progress. A point would see them finish runners-up if Slovakia don’t beat England, whilst a victory would see them top the group if England don’t beat Slovakia.
Russia have looked poor in both of their games but have notably scored late goals in each. They also spent a lot of the final half hour attacking Slovakia. It may be wise for Chris Coleman to send his side out attacking in the first half to get a 1-0 half-time lead as they have had in both games so far.
The Welsh may certainly play for a point but they cannot expect a 0-0 draw with some of the defending they’ve made in this tournament. Russia’s ageing defence does look fragile, so setting the likes of Bale and Aaron Ramsey on them may be Coleman’s best option in this one.