On June 11th, Russia and England will square off in the Stade Velodrome as they both begin their campaigns in the 2016 European Championships.
After a disappointing Euro 2012, the Russians will be looking to bounce back in Euro 2016. The Russians grabbed a 4-1 victory in their opening game four years ago, but still saw themselves crash out at the group stage. This time around they’ll hope for a similar start, but a much better finish.
England did make it out of their group at Euro 2012, but fell in the quarter finals to Italy on penalties. Couple that with going out of the World Cup in the group stages, and there is some serious pressure on Roy Hodgson to perform.
Russia will be without one of the joint top scorers from Euro 2012, Alan Dzagoev, after broke a bone in his foot. Igor Denisov will also be out with a thigh injury.
Manager Leonid Slutzky has left all time top scorer, Alexsandr Kerzhakov, at home for this tournament. All but one of the players picked for the squad play in Russia, with the exception being German based Roman Neustadter.
Despite speculation that a calf injury and the rise of Marcus Rashford would keep him out of the squad, Daniel Sturridge is on the plane to France. His inclusion didn’t keep Rashford out though and the 18 year old will be one of five strikers going to the Euros.
England was the only team to win all 10 of their qualifying games. They conceded only three times in those 10 games giving them the joint second best defensive record behind only Romania. Their 31 goals scored was also the second highest in qualifying behind only Poland’s 33 goals scored. Considering those two stats, it’s no real surprise that their +28 goal difference was the best in all of qualifying.
Russia’s defense was no slouch either, conceding only five goals in their 10 qualifying matches. It wasn’t enough for them to top their group though, finishing a whole eight points behind group winners Austria. Qualification meant it was the fifth time in the last six European Championships that Russia had qualified, but in those last five appearances they’ve only made it past the group stage once.
England: Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney has not had a good 12 months. He’s struggled to find form and has been moved from second striker, then out and out striker to central midfield. Yet, for better or for worse, Roy Hodgson seems insistent on starting his captain. He’ll likely be starting off the striker and if England are to succeed Rooney will have to find form in that position.
Russia: Artyom Dzyuba
Russia were hardly goal shy in qualifiers, their 21 goal (although three of those did come from a match being abandoned) were ninth most in qualifiers. That said, they certainly had a main source of goals in Artyom Dzyuba. Dzyuba’s eight goals in qualifying were tied for fourth most in qualifiers, behind only Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Mueller and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They were also five more than any other Russian player scored in qualifying. The 6’5 striker will need to be firing on all cylinders if Russia are to make it out of this group.
The odds favour an English victory but this is setting up to be a very cagey affair, as many opening games to tournaments are. Both teams may look at each other as their toughest adversary in the group and focus on not losing more than winning. With both teams under pressure to succeed, this could end up being a very dry game.