Group B Watch: How England’s foes did over the international break
While Roy Hodgson’s England side provided the country a timely reminder of the gamut of emotions following the Three Lions at a tournament can bring, by following a stunning win over the World Champions with a tepid loss to a side who haven’t even qualified for the Euros, England’s three other Group B opponents were also in action over the international break.
With England currently priced as 9/1 fourth favourites for the tournament, here’s how Russia, Slovakia and Wales all got on:
Following the disappointment of Fabio Capello’s three-year reign as Russia boss, new manager Leonid Slutsky had started promisingly before the latest batch of international friendlies, with only one loss at home to Croatia blotting a copybook that otherwise read five games won.
Slutsky made that six with a comfortable 3-0 win over Lithuania on Saturday, but couldn’t improve on that when meeting the attacking might of France in Paris on Tuesday, with a rampant French side running out 4-2 winners.
However Russia won’t be too despondent given that France are so well fancied (they’re currently 3/1 favourites), particularly as they managed to score twice past Hugo Lloris, meaning they continue their run of scoring in every single game since Capello’s departure.
Ranked the lowest of all Group B teams, Slovakia will undoubtedly be seen as the group underdogs, but any side underestimating them will do so at their complacent peril.
This Slovakian side finished second only to Spain in their qualifying group, ahead of Ukraine and Belarus, thanks largely to a stunning eight-match winning run which included a victory over the Spanish at home.
They’re currently unbeaten in five and while their two recent friendlies were anything but spectacular – a 0-0 home stalemate with Latvia and a 2-2 draw away at Republic of Ireland – they showed more than enough to suggest that they’ll fancy their chances of repeating the sort of performances they put on in South Africa, when they dumped Italy out the group stages at the 2010 World Cup.
As England fans will attest following the end of Sven Goran Eriksson’s reign, the last thing a team needs heading into a tournament is a big question mark hanging over the future of the manager.
Unfortunately, Wales were unable to put chatter about Chris Coleman’s contract to one side with positive displays on the pitch as the absence of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey was undoubtedly fel. An underwhelming 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland was followed by a 1-0 loss in Ukraine.
An injury-hit Welsh XI needed an 89th-minute Simon Church penalty to square things up in Cardiff but could muster nothing similar in attack in Kiev as a first half Andriy Yarmolenko goal decided matters.
Although the Welsh will clearly be strengthened by the eventual return of their star attacking players at the Euros, a particular worry for Coleman will be just how vulnerable the Welsh looked in defence, with both goals conceded over the international break coming from set pieces.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.