Group B Preview – EURO 2016

EURO 2016 is just 5 weeks away. This week I preview Group B.

The teams contesting Group B.
The teams contesting Group B.



England will look to improve on their last appearance at the EUROS when Italy knocked Roy Hodgson’s men out in the quarter-finals on penalties.England were almost perfect in their qualifying campaign. They won every game,scored the second most goals (31), conceded the second fewest (3) and had the best goal difference (+28). England’s qualifying campaign saw a changing of the guard with players such as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard retiring. Wayne Rooney was entrusted with the captain’s armband and helped bring young talents such as Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Ross Barkley into the national setup.  England qualified top of their group and were the first team to book their place at the finals after hosts France. Hodgson used the remaining games to blood some young players starting six players under the age of 23 in a friendly against France last November. England are a young side with ambitions of greatness. The likes of Jamie Vardy, Dele Alli and Danny Drinkwater will help push the three lions towards glory.



The Coach – Roy Hodgson


No manager brought as much high-level tournament experience to the England job as Roy Hodgson when he was rushed into the position ahead of EURO 2012 following the departure of Fabio Capello. He led his team to the quarter-finals, where they lost to Italy on penalties. Hodgson had previously managed Switzerland at the 1994 World Cup and EURO 96. At club level he won league titles in Sweden and Denmark and brought Fulham and Inter Milan to the UEFA Cup final. Hodgson will look to make history this summer by leading England to their first European Championship final.

England at the EURO Finals:

  • 1960- Did not enter
  • 1964- Did not qualify
  • 1968- Third place
  • 1972- Did not qualify
  • 1976- Did not qualify
  • 1980-Group stage
  • 1984- Group stage
  • 1988-Group stage
  • 1992- Did not qualify
  • 1996- Semi-finals
  • 2000- Group stage
  • 2004- Quarter-finals
  • 2008- Did not qualify
  • 2012 – Quarter-finals



Not only will Wales be making their debut in the finals of the European Championship in France, but they will be stepping into the finals of a major competition for the first time since their appearance at the 1958 World Cup. Wales currently have a “golden generation” with players such as Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Ledley, Andy King and Wayne Henessey. Bale has been key to the sides qualification. He scored seven goals in the qualification campaign netting crucially against group favourites Belgium. Wales finished second in their group just two point off Belgium. The Welsh national side are full of believe heading to France this summer and the players will look to live up to the motto on their shirts: “Together.Stronger.”

Bale pic

The Coach – Chris Coleman


Chris Coleman took over as national team manager in early 2012 in tragic circumstances following the premature death of then-manger Gary Speed. Coleman made 32 appearances for Wales in his playing days on the back of a successful club career playing with Manchester City, Swansea, Crystal Palace, Fulham and Blackburn. After his retirement Coleman became a coach and manager. He managed Fulham,Real Sociedad, Coventry City and Greek side Larissa before joining Speed’s coaching staff with the Welsh national team.

Wales at the EURO Finals:

  • 1960- Did not enter
  • 1964- Did not qualify
  • 1968- Did not qualify
  • 1972- Did not qualify
  • 1976- Did not qualify
  • 1980- Did not qualify
  • 1984- Did not qualify
  • 1988- Did not qualify
  • 1992- Did not qualify
  • 1996- Did not qualify
  • 2000- Did not qualify
  • 2004- Did not qualify
  • 2008- Did not qualify
  • 2012- Did not qualify



Despite Slovakia having never reached the finals of the European Championship the manner in which they qualified marked them as dangerous group rivals for any side. Slovakia shocked Spain in the qualifying campaign defeating them at home 2-1 thanks to a late goal from Mino Stoch. Victories over Ukraine and Spain provided solid foundation which saw Slovakia qualify second from their group. Slovakia’s captain, attacking midfielder Marek Hamsik was crucial to the sides qualification scoring five goals joint leader in their group with Spains Paco Alcacer. Coach Jan Kozak has a number of stalwarts who boast 40 international appearances or more.  These include defenders Peter Pekarik, Jan Duric and Martin Skrtel, midfielders Vladimir Weiss,Stanislav Sestak, Hamsik and Stoch. They also have experience upfront in the form of  Robert Vittek and Martin Jakubko. As a result Slovakia boast one of the most experienced squads at the finals.


The Coach – Jan Kozak

Jan Kozak#

Of all the coaches heading to EURO 2016 Jan Zozak is one of the most experienced former international players having scored nine goals in 55 appearances for what was then Czechoslovakia. A former Czechoslovak Player of the Year Kozak played in midfield at both EURO 1980 and the 1982 World Cup. He has had a successful managerial career in Slovakia winning the league and domestic cup honours. He became Slovakia coach in 2013 taking over from Michal Hipp. He made history by becoming the first coach to lead Slovakia to the European finals.

Slovakia at the EURO Finals:

  • 1960- Did not exist
  • 1964- Did not exist
  • 1968- Did not exist
  • 1972- Did not exist
  • 1976- Did not exist
  • 1980- Did not exist
  • 1984- Did not exist
  • 1988- Did not exist
  • 1992- Did not exist
  • 1996- Did not qualify
  • 2000- Did not qualify
  • 2004- Did not qualify
  • 2008- Did not qualify
  • 2012- Did not qualify



Russia confronts a double challenge in France. A positive campaign is vital not only for the sake of national pride but also for the reassurance that the national team as earned its seat at world football’s top table when they host the World Cup in 2018. Russia had a turbulent qualifying campaign. Coach Fabio Capello left the post after Russia’s first six qualifying games produced two wins,two draws and two defeats. It left the players and new coach Leonid Slutsky with plenty of work. Slutsky was able to steady the ship and a victory in the last group game at home to Montenegro secured second place in their group behind Austria. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev has been a pillar of the national team for the past 12 years. Other key players include experienced defenders Sergei Ignashevich and Aleksei Berezutski. Mercurial winger Alan Dzagov is one of Russia’s most talented players. Artem Dzyuba’s goal scoring talents were key to Russia’s qualification scoring eight goals on the way to France. Russia are a dangerous side that have a lot to prove following a poor showing at the 2014 World Cup.

Igor pc

The Coach Leonid Slutsky


Leonid Slutsky was forced to retire from plating at the age of 21 but turned his passion for playing into coaching. His first major appointment came with local club Olimpia Volgograd in 2000 before progressing to Ulralan Elista,FC Moscow and PFC Kryila Sovetov Samara before a seven year reign at giants CSKA Moscow. He lead them to league titles in 2013 and 2014 when he was also voted Coach of the Year. All this made him the perfect candidate to take on a duel role when Fabio Capello left the position in August 2015. Under his command Russia duly stepped up from third in the group to secure an automatic qualification spot.

Russia at the EURO Final:

  • 1960*- Winners
  • 1964*- Runners-up
  • 1968*- Fourth place
  • 1972*- Runners-up
  • 1976*- Did not qualify
  • 1980*- Did not enter
  • 1984*- Did not qualify
  • 1988*- Runners-up
  • 1992**- Group stage
  • 1996- Group stage
  • 2000- Did not qualify
  • 2004- Group stage
  • 2008- Semi-final
  • 2012- Group stage

* As Soviet Union from 1960-88 and ** Commonwealth of Independent States in 1992.

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