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Euro 2016 Group B: Player Picks

The England v Wales game will be hyped out of proportion in what is a tricky group to predict.

Some big tactical decisions ahead for Roy.
Some big tactical decisions ahead for Roy.
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Group B see's England in a group that no doubt we will make look very hard.


Possible starting 11


Walker/Clyne, Smalling Cahill, Rose

Rooney, Dier, Alli

Milner/Sturridge, Kane, Sterling/Vardy

Roy's young lions head into this competition without the burden of extreme and unrealistic expectation we have seen in recent competitions.  Few seem to think we have enough quality to win the Euro's but most do expect the usual quarter final exit with hope's we can go further.  The side have failed to come close to winning a competition when holding a 6/7 world class players in their starting 11 so approaching the tournament with mainly youngsters calms matters.

Arguably England have a stronger attack than any other side in the competition with Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy all nightmares to face.  On top we have the fearless talent of Deli Alli and the tournament knowhow of Mr Rooney.  When you then add bench options like Raheem Sterling and perhaps Marcus Rashford to call on you can see what I mean.

It is when we move into midfield the issues start.  There is a lack of depth and questionable quality.  The side continue to struggle to keep possession and the high energy pressing game which worked in qualification won't last beyond an hour in the summertime France heat.

The Spurs duo of Alli and Dyer must start for me but there is not assurance they will.  Jack Wilshere has once again been injured most of the season but is available to the side as I write.  Jordan Henderson is coming back from injury and while James Milner has been very good for Liverpool he has constantly found to be unable to replicate the performances in the international area.  Ross Barkley has been inconsistent and now is surely just a sub option at best.   The ever slowing Rooney brings an interesting a development to Roys choices.  No longer able to call on acceleration he has been used in midfield by Manchester united since his last injury return.  Results have been mixed but he would add a strong voice and presence in an area of the pitch England have struggled.

Then we have the bigger concern of all, the defence.  "Mike" Smalling has improved under LVG and if fit is their best defender but not a world class one yet.  Gary Cahill looks likely to partner him but found international football brutal in the 2014 World Cup.  He will be glad there is no Luis Suarez to expose his hesitation and temptation to let the ball bounce in front of him in the Euro's. Cahill is a good talker and I do think the protection of Dier will help him.  In the provisional squad of 26 player Roy has selected only 3 central defenders and two of those Smalling/John stones are facing their first competition andStones has been in dreadful form since getting linked with a move away from Everton.

The final issue and real problem is the lack of a left hand side central defender.  Smalling, Cahill and Stones all play the right hand side.  I'm not a fan of John Terry getting one last tournament but I can see the point.

The full back are great with the ball but at times too easy to pick off without it.  Considering the issue at the left central defence role, Danny Rose who will likely start at left back will need to be much more aware of protection than he has been so far.

What Roy does with Rooney will be important and Wayne's performance must be far better than that the last two major tournaments,  The midfield trio who played in the 3-2 win in Germany Alli, Henderson and Dier looks our best option in Roy's 433 system. Despite this it's possible Jordan Henderson late season injury see's Roy pick Rooney instead.  The bigger worry is Roy forcing Rooney into the side instead of Alli who has the look of a player opposition will fear.

If Wayne doesn't play midfield then perhaps he plays one of the wide roles either side of Kane.  He played the position in the World Cup 2014 and we saw he simply doesn't have the legs anymore to be effective in this role.

We really must rule out the no9 role where Kane should be untouchable if fit.  The final choice in the no10 role behind Kane in a 4231 formation.  Should he play that role then England may push Alli deeper and lose part of his partnership with Kane.  That idea also raises concerns then.

I will take a guess that bold Roy goes for it formation wise and lines Alli, Rooney and Dier as a trio in the opening game. We have to accept Rooney plays regardless of form and balance.  If this is the case then this positional choice is my preferred option for England captain.

Joe Hart - 5.5m

I will be honest, I don't like England's clean sheet chances much in the competition as a whole however, there is a chance of 1 or 2 in the group stages.

Eric Dier - 5m

Listed as a defender but will play in midfield (that's hopefully will play in midfield).

Deli Alli - 6.5m

A player the opposition still won't fully be aware off (see Rooney in Euro 2004) and it isn't impossible Roy plays clever bugger and keeps him back for the knockout rounds.  For me though he must start against Russia although a close eye should be cast on the friendlies prior to see the likelihood.  If he starts I think he will star in the competition as long as England lasts.

Wayne Rooney - 9.5m

He looks far from the player he once was.  But you should remember it's now 12 years since the 17 year old Rooney looked like he could be a player of any imagination.  Wayne has had a great career but not fully fulfilled his potential for many.

So why pick him?  Well, the theory is that opposition managers will be planning much more for the likes of Kane and co.  In turn this could leave just a little more space and time on the ball for Wayne than he has had in the last few tournaments.  Maybe Rooney can blossom alongside the youngsters.  He is also pen and free kick taker.

Harry Kane - 8.5m

Kane has been fantastic this season for Spurs.  Plenty of questions were asked about the possible second season problems many player suffer.  Not for Kane though and after a slow start he finished as the Premier League top goalscorer.

Kane strikes me as a player less flustered by circumstances than most a mindset international player's benefit from.  He can score with either foot or head and has excellent movement and ball control.  If England make the chances, Kane will take them.  Should Kane compete for the Euro golden boot then we may see Tottenham's resolve to keep him tested this summer rather than next.

The concern is whether England will make Kane enough chances.  We rarely look like the sum of our parts and face three defensive minded opponents.

On paper this England look very attack minded and while the number of chances could be less than he gets at Spurs, I still think Kane can reward you with 2 or more group stage goals (could be the fan talking rather than the fantasy expert).


Possible starting 11


Smolnikov, Berezutski, Igashevich, Zhirkov

Denisov, Dzagoev

Shatov, Shirokov, Kokorin


Once a feared side and one who have looked possible winners, this Russia side is looking a little long in the tooth and one who have limited aspirations this time.

The fact that so many of the squad have played the last couple competitions brings experience but those players have had limited success in recent years.  Russian fans have hopes of escaping the group but progress afterwards isn't as expected as in previous years.

They will be viewing the opening game as the toughest but England have always had trouble playing highly technical players, so you can't rule out an upset.  It's the aging defence against the movement of Kane and raw pace of Bale that is their biggest concern.

Russia qualified by winning their final 4 games after the removal of Fabio Capello and appointment of Leonid Slutsky.   It's Slutsky that may be the key to their progress.  Known as a strong tactician he will likely have a well drilled gameplan for the opposition.  He is also quite the character, having his career cut short when injured rescuing a cat from a tree aged 19.  He is also a nervous watcher from the touchline.

Slutsky unlike Capello has merged the players away from the club rivalries and is hugely respected.  They won't be an easy side to play.

Alan Dzagoev -7.5m

Still the player the Russians hold hopes for but one who hasn't yet set the world alight.  He now play a deeper more creative role but has 9 goals in 49 games which is an excellent strike rate.  The Danger man.

Roman Shirokov - 6.5m

The Russian playmaker and scorer of important goals.  He is very experienced and I had joy picking him previously in summer tournaments. 13 goals in 53 international games may tempt you more than Dzagoev.

Yuri Zhirkov - 5.5m

Member of Euro 2008 and old favourite of fantasy players.  Nice filler price with potential.

Denis Cheryshev 5.5m

If you want a gamble with the potential for high profits then Denis may be your man.  Having joined Real Madrid in 2002 as an 11 year old Cheryshev he has found it difficult to get a chance.  Unfortunately playing the same role as Bale hasn't helped his cause.  Due to this he has spent loans spells at Villereal and Valencia.

Loves to shoot and a powerful player on the ball, he may have a subs role but any positive impact in the pre Euro friendlies could yet see him make the starting 11.

Artem Dzyuba - 8m

Has 8 goals in 16 for Russia and was their top goal scorer in qualification.  Excellent in the air and powerfully built he plays for Zenit St Petersburg where he has 14 goals in 29 games since his move in 2015.

The player has talked about his disappointment not being selected for previous tournaments and appears to be enjoying the faith his current club and international managers are showing in him.

Aleksander Kokorin

A talented player who as yet not fulfilled his potential.  22 goals for Dynamo Moscow earned him a move Zenit this year and gave hope his talent is now coming through.  Possible Pen taker for Russia.


Possible starting 11


Gunter, Chester, Williams, Davies, Taylor

Ledley, Allen

Ramsey, Bale


In their first competition finals since 1958 Chris Coleman's side will fear nobody.  Coleman has turned them into a flexible team capable of switching formation mid game.  In principle though the plan is to use their neat and tidy midfielder to launch counters with the World Class talent that is Bale.

Some won't expect them to qualify but on paper they have the talent and as important the temperament to do just that.  Then add that no team and no defence will enjoy facing Bale.

Wales kept 7 clean sheet's in their 10 qualifying games and conceded just 4 goals.  They kept clean sheets twice against Belgium with all their attacking options.  Goals the other end were also in short supply as was the creation of chances.  Their matches will be tight and tense.

For the fans it's all about match two and the long awaited derby with England.  The game will have a cup final atmosphere all of its own.  Expect huge welsh support at all the games and in the streets of Paris before, during and after kickoff.

James Chester -€” 4.5m

If we consider Wales defensive results in qualifying against Belgium and Bosnia, we can accept them a decent defensive side.  Should Coleman go with his 5 man defence system, Chester at 4.5m is a great filler.

Aaron Ramsey - 7.5m

Ramsey hasn't quite been the midfield player Arsenal hoped but he can be effective on his day.  His late runs into the box will be important to supplement Bale.

Gareth Bale - 10.5m

The world most expensive player and only current true world class player in group B.

19 goals in 54 international games, he scored every type of goal in qualifying to get Wales to Paris.

He will face sides with a plan to deal with him but as Wales will be playing most games on the break, he may actually have more space for Wales than he receives on a weekly basis playing for Real Madrid.

Considering Wales are underdogs in the group and Bales price it's hard to pick him in your team.  Having said that he will likely start all the games, have chances in them and you just know he scores at least once against England -€” Damm it.


Possible starting 11



Oekarik, Skrtel, Durcia, Hubocan

Pecovsky, Kucka

Mak, Hamsik, Weiss


Some say we may have seen the side peak in 2010 when they beat Italy in the World Cup.  But this side beat defending champions Spain in qualification (their first qualifying defeat in 8 years) and will love their role as underdog.

Strong in defence and comfortable playing on the break they are dangerous for any side not on their game.  The concern for them is the Italian and Spain sides they beat lacked pace something England and Wales have in more than one player.  It will be interesting to see if they can cope with the pace of Bale and Jamie Vardy should he play (hint Roy).

Matus Kozacik - 4.5m

Slovakia's first choice keeper is an interesting one.  He is known to make very few mistakes and plays behind a solid defence.  His price makes him a strong filler temptation

Martin Skrtel - 5.5m

Solid in a solid defence.  Scorer of 5 goals in 79 games makes him an option if you do like their chances of being party poopers.

Marek Hamsik - 7.5m

At 28 the Napoli player and Slovakian star is primed for the competition.  17 goals in 85 internationals is a high strike rate.  Hamsik has been at his bets in Serie A this season and chipped in 6 goal and 11 assists against more defence minded opposition.  He should get more room in the Euros.  If you fancy the side to keep on winning when underdogs he could be a sleeper pick.

Robert Mak -€” 6m

Mak was once a Manchester City academy player and currently plays for PAOK in Greece.  Has had a very good season scoring 19 goals in 43 appearances and scored 6 in 6 Europa League games.  At 25 he is starting to come into himself and could be a great out of position option (rated as a midfield player in the McDonalds game).

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Any players take your fancy?