We take a look into England’s prospects at the 2016 European Championships in France, their opponents in Group B and the raised expectations among supporters.
The last time England made the semi-finals of the European Championships? 1996. The last time they went that far and weren’t the host nation? 1968.
As any good sports gambler knows, past performance is no guaranteed predictor of the future. But that miserable kind of track record, along with a group stage exit at the 2014 World Cup, would make you think that England supporters (and bettors everywhere) might have low expectations for the team at this summer’s Euro 2016 in France.
Instead, expectations have possibly never been higher. This year’s tournament is going to be crazy with many people betting on England as the chances have never been so high. If you want to know all the information before the tournament begins check out this football guide from OnlineGambling.com which will give you everything you need to know about online sports betting.
Why Expectations Are So High
Even when you’re a nation as pessimistic about your football team as England supporters are, it’s difficult not to get a little giddy when a) your nation wins all 10 qualifying matches (the only nation to do that) and b) you draw a relatively soft group with opponents that have an average FIFA ranking of 22. A flashy 3-2 friendly win against Germany in Berlin only inflated hopes even higher.
Despite that fever pitch being somewhat tempered after a friendly loss to Holland following the win in Berlin, hopes remain high for a young squad that has been playing exciting attacking football and seemingly has no shortage of goalscorers.
Who Will Play
Of those scorers, who the pundits think manager Roy Hodgson might select for his final 23-man Euro squad seemingly changes everyday. However, there are a few things we know. We know Joe Hart will be in net, especially now that Jack Butland will miss the Euros after suffering a season-ending ankle injury while playing for Stoke. Some combination of Nathaniel Clyne, Gary Cahill, John Stones, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Phil Jones, and Ryan Bertrand will make up the back line. Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, and Theo Walcott will be starting somewhere on the pitch.
Where the biggest doubt lingers is just how many players to put up top as forwards, and who. It’s a problem that England hasn’t had in a while–an over-abundance of goal-scoring options to choose from for a suspected five forward spots on the roster. Not only is whether Wayne Rooney–who has missed England’s two most-recent friendlies–should remain captain is up for debate, but whether or not the nation’s top all-time goalscorer should even start. Spurs man Harry Kane is thought of as England’s top attacking option, but who should start alongside him–Daniel Sturridge? Jamie Vardy? Danny Welbeck? Rooney after all? -will be much debated even after the final squads are released.
How England Matches Up Against Group B
The Three Lions’ matchup against Wales (making their first appearance in a major competition since the 1958 World Cup) is naturally going to garner the most attention, especially since starting at forward for the Dragons will be Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale. However, since last September Wales has had some questionable results to similar-caliber Euro sides (1-0 L to Ukraine, 1-1 D to N. Ireland) that may suggest they’ll leave Euro just to have been happy to be playing on the international stage again.
Even though England received an overall favorable draw, they would be wise not to assume that their matches against Russia or Slovakia will be cakewalks, either. Although they have since come back to Earth, Slovakia lost just one match from Jan. 2014 thru June 2015 (11-0-1) and even defending Euro champions Spain. Russia won four of their last five qualifying matches to make it into Euro, but will be under the guidance of an interim manager (until at least the end of the Euros.) England will need to figure out a way to stop emergent star Artem Dzubya who finished the Euro qualifying campaign with 8 goals, good enough for fourth (tied) in the campaign behind only Muller, Zlatan, and Lewandowski.
Should England win Group B, they would face the third place team from Group A, C, or D. This is impossible to predict, but assuming France wins Group A, that Germany wins C, and that Spain wins D, that round of 16 opponent could be any one of Switzerland, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Croatia, or Turkey.
A Final Preview
Expect for England to clear up their lineup mysteries and give a sneak peek on how they could do at the Euros in their final three tune-up friendlies this May and June. Before opening Championship play against Wales in Lens on June 16, Hodgson and England will get to test their tactics and form against two other Euro 2016 sides (Turkey and Portugal) as well as an Australian team that is having their own spectacular qualifying campaign in the AFC.