2016 Euros Group B
Group B includes England, Russia, Slovakia and Wales.
FIFA Ranking: 24
Welsh players may be familiar to EPL fans but other than Gareth Bale there are not too many world class players from Wales these days. Swansea’s Ashley Williams is by far the next best player. Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and the ‘Welsh Pirlo’, Liverpool’s Joe Allen are also in the squad. 2016 is the first time Wales has qualified for the Euro finals and as in previous years when Giggs, Rush and other famous Welshmen were in the team, there is a distinct lack of depth and unless Bale can perform miracles, they could well be on holiday in the south of Spain come the knock-out stages.
FIFA Ranking: 32
Like Wales, Slovakia are light on world class players. A few of their team play in Europe’s top 4 leagues and the most recognizable name is Martin Skrtel of Liverpool. Most of the squad play in Eastern Europe and to be frank, I don’t expect them to fair too well in the championship.
FIFA Ranking: 27
Russia come to the Euro’s with almost all home based players and yet they should not be written off lightly. Russia usually manage to get a decent team together even if the players aren’t on the tip of anyone’s tongue before the tournament. Russia would be disappointed to lose to Slovakia and might push Wales, and even England if they don’t get their act together.
FIFA Ranking: 10
England are the seeded team and with the premier league being broadcast to hundreds of millions of households the players are well-known and expectations, as usual, are very high. England themselves will expect to progress from the group stage but are unlikely to feature past the semi-finals. For all the money in the English game, the quality of English players isn’t where it needs to be. A league entirely reliant on speed and fitness leaves little room for finesse and skill, something we see more in the Spanish and Italian leagues where pace isn’t the holy grail.
England should progress, it will all depend on how well the likes of Vardy, Kane, Sturridge and Rooney gel. The midfield, though filled with quality sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. Defensively, concentration lapses are the biggest risk. It’s literally a coin toss between Wales and Russia for the second spot while I think Slovakia won’t win a match.