Euro 2016 Group B: England to pass Slovakia exam with flying colours
Holly Thackeray | June 18, 2016
Slovakia v England
- Euro 2016 Group B
- Monday, June 20th
- Kick-off: 20:00 BST
- Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne
- Live on ITV1
England have Euro destiny in their hands
Euro 2016 hopefuls England are sitting pretty atop Group B, ahead of their final pool scuffle with Slovakia. Yet, the Three Lions are in a more precarious position than it seems.
The job is still only half done, with qualifying and a first place pool finish just within grasp, but a fall to third spot and the lottery of safe passage through that route is still possible.
However, England are odds-on at 3/4 with Coral to slay Slovakia’s hopes, as they proffer a perfect winning record against this side with three victories from as many matches versus the central Europeans, since their split from Czechoslovakia in 1993.
Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions overcame Wales with spirit last time out to save their tournament hopes, but the Falcons will be no walk over in this thrilling final fray, with odds of 12/5 for a draw, or 9/2 for Slovakia success.
Everything is finely poised in this pool and, while a draw could do, as Wales wrestle with Russia in the evening’s other encounter still aiming to finish first, the English really require a full three points to avoid upset.
Hamsik for a final heroic push
Slovakia showed just what they could do against ageing Russia last time out, and the Falcons frontline can certainly challenge the Three Lions.
A spirited side, skipper Marek Hamsik is by far the biggest Repre name and most familiar face. The Napoli midfield net threat scored a spectacular strike against the Russians and is more than capable of pulling off another incredible solo effort, with enticing odds of 11/4 for his second tournament goal anytime.
Of course, England’s rampaging full back pair of Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, both from Spurs, have been a credit to the cause so far. But, expect Slovakia to test their solidity on the back foot, with ex-Manchester City wingman Vladimir Weiss also 4/1 to notch again.
A case for the English defence
As Slovakia could have to count on a goal swing for automatic qualification to the knockout phase, expect coach Jan Kozak to have his Repre men rallying hard to expose England’s supposed rearguard weakness, with a 9/4 price for both sides to score and either to win.
As these two teams have conceded and scored in their two opening games each, a 21/10 shout says both will score again in this scuffle. While, with England’s dominant history, the Three Lions are a tempting 10/3 to triumph and each team to be on target.
Yet, these bets overlook the fact that England had one of the most robust rearguard’s in qualifying, and stats from Squawka show sturdy centre half Chris Smalling leads the competition for most successful headed clearances so far with 24.
Just two tussles in, the English defence could come into their own here and punters can pounce on a clean sheet at 11/10, or a win to nil (33/20).
Hitman headaches for Hodgson
Most of the headlines surrounding Hodgson’s selections focus on the frontline, with the recent starting selections hardly firing on all cylinders.
Latest reports suggest the England boss will bench Tottenham hitman Harry Kane, who along with Raheem Sterling has looked far from his usual lethal self, and encouragingly opt instead for in-form Liverpool dangerman Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge stunned doubters last time out as he dispatched a last-gasp winner against the Dragons, as well as providing the delightful assist for fellow super sub Jamie Vardy’s equaliser. So, customers can back the Englishman at 4/1 for the first goal.
It appears Hodgson has resisted temptation to keep electric Vardy as the ace up his sleeve to come on and change the game if needed. Even though he is set to start, there is still value to be had for the Foxes forward at 4/1 for the final say.
Hodgson said of his host of attacking options: “I’m looking behind me on the bench and thinking, ‘Who do I want? Do I want Sturridge on? Vardy? [Marcus] Rashford?’ Can I bring someone on in midfield to manipulate the ball? — which I’m hoping in the future could be very useful for us going further in the tournament.”
Skipper Wayne Rooney, despite playing deeper, should not be overlooked but may be, despite bagging a brace in England’s last Slovakia encounter and is 7/4 to strike anytime if involved. While, young Marcus Rashford looked bright, if raw, on his Euro bow and is 6/4 in the same market to keep England marching forward.
Coral’s top tip: Back Vardy at 4/1 for the final strike.