3 Players Key for England to beat Russia
England start their Euro 2016 campaign against 2018 World Cup hosts Russia on Saturday evening; kicking off 24 hours after the tournament’s opener between France and Romania.
Roy Hodgson’s side enter the tournament having won 10 of their last 12 games including wins over Germany and Portugal, every reason to be confident of winning their group.
This would make a great improvement on two years ago when England were eliminated from the World Cup after only two games, but somehow the FA kept Hodgson in charge anyway.
Group B consists of England, Russia, Wales and Slovakia, with many considering Leonid Slutsky’s side the only real threat to the Three Lions in winning the group and a favourable second round draw.
However, Slutsky’s men enter the tournament with a banged up side already missing key players. Playmakers Alan Dzagoev and Denis Cheryshev are both out of the tournament as is holding midfielder Igor Denisev. Former-Chelsea player Yuri Zhirkov and 35-year-old full-back Oleg Kuzmin is also missing the tournament through injury.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Slutsky heads into his side’s opener against England 48 hours after Dmitri Torbinski, Vasili Berezutski and Denis Glushakov all missed full first-team training.
That’s why we were surprised to find England have 1/1 odds on SmartBets of beating Russia tomorrow. And here are the three players we think will be key to England’s victory:
1. Harry Kane
The Tottenham Hotspur striker heads into Euro 2016 as the Premier League’s 2015-16 Golden Boot winner and has also delivered the goods for England during the course of qualifying and the season.
Russia defended well in qualifying, admittedly without the toughest of opposition, but have they improved since the World Cup? We’re not so sure and injuries have only hindered this. The manager may even have to switch his regular tactics to get a strong lineup they’re so badly depleted.
Harry Kane is lethal in the box and likes to shoot when given the chance, so don’t be surprised if the Spurs man scores on Saturday.
2. Dele Alli
With Roy Hodgson set to play the 4-3-3 system he has switched to in recent games, Dele Alli is not going to be in the number 10 role that he has excelled at for Tottenham Hotspur this past season. And even if the manager reverted back to his previous 4-2-3-1 formation you could bet Wayne Rooney would be starting behind Kane anyway.
However, in a midfield three that will include club teammate Eric Dier, Alli should get a lot of freedom to attack. With England expected to dominate possession in their opener, the Tottenham man should be heavily involved. He had a great chemistry with Harry Kane at club level in their first season together and England fans are hopeful they can do similar in France this summer.
Dele Alli put in a man of the match performance in the victory versus Germany in March and against weaker opposition, albeit a side that could be very defensive, hopefully he’ll be able to shine against Russia too.
3. Raheem Sterling
Has had a very disappointing first season at Manchester City, and while we’re not big fans of Raheem Sterling his pace has the opportunity to draw defenders out of position to open up space for his fellow teammates.
Sterling also enjoys running with the ball which could also create chances for both himself and teammates or even draw fouls in and around the penalty area.
Russia aren’t the quickest and their defence is ageing so whether Sterling starts down the left wing or enters the action in the second half, he could be up against some tired legs to inflict damage.