Euro 2016: Matchday 1 in Group B

Cormac O'DonnellEuropean ChampionshipLeave a Comment

An exciting day in Group B treated us to a first European Championship victory for Wales and a dramatic last-gasp equalizer from Russia.

Robson-Kanu celebrates the winning goal for Wales. Courtesy:

Robson-Kanu celebrates the winning goal for Wales. Courtesy:

Wales 2-1 Slovakia

Our first match in Group B saw perhaps the most exciting debutants, Wales, with Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale at the helm. The Dragons’ tournament got underway with a tricky fixture against Slovakia. The latter’s threat was shown early in the game as Marek Hamsik’s jinking run led to a goal line clearance from Ben Davies.

Slovakia were to rue the missed opportunity as Gareth Bale’s free-kick beat the questionable Matus Kozacik only six minutes later. Wales continued to press the advantage and were denied a penalty when Martin Skrtel appeared to bundle over Jonny Williams in the box.

Despite their control, the inspired introduction of Duda leveled the game when the Slovak drilled the ball neatly into the bottom corner following a clever piece of play from Robert Mak.

It was another substitute, in Hal Robson-Kanu, which sealed the game for the plucky Welsh side. A sublime long ball from Joe Ledley was met by Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, who did well to maintain his balance before shifting the ball for Robson-Kanu to will it into the net.


Wales Expectations: 7/10

High expectations are matched with little pressure on the debutants. Despite their lack of experience, the solid core of Ashley Williams, Aaron Ramsey, and Gareth Bale looks promising. Could they possibly threaten the hierarchy?

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Wales Verdict: 7/10

Whilst Bale had a quiet game, the overall performance from Wales lived up to expectations. Some composed passing play along with a clear passion and determination drove the Welsh to a deserved victory.


Slovakia Expectation: 6/10

With the Premier League and Serie A pedigree of Martin Skrtel and Marek Hamsik respectively, the Slovakians will be no pushover but poor squad depth may be their downfall.

Slovakia Verdict: 7/10

Despite the bizarrely reckless performance of Martin Skrtel, the Slovakians looked a very dangerous outfit. They were unlucky not to pick up a point and the other members of Group B will certainly have a tough game on their hands.

Russia celebrate their last-gasp equalizer. Courtesy:

Russia celebrate their last-gasp equalizer. Courtesy:

England 1-1 Russia

One of the tournament favourites, the ever expectant England, faced off against a Russia side still recovering from Fabio Capello’s stint as manager. Talk of team selection around the England camp was rife. In the end Wayne Rooney, England’s top goalscorer, took his position in the middle of the park whilst Premier League champion Jamie Vardy remained on the bench.

Despite the criticism, Hodgson’s men were energetic, fearless, and dynamic. Unfortunately England wasted chance after chance, only taking the lead after a stunning free-kick from Tottenham’s Eric Dier.

Questionable substitutions followed as Jack Wilshere and James Milner were introduced to solidify the middle of the park. The defensive switch in mentality proved fatal for the English as Russian captain Berezutski looped a header inside the far post to level the game in the dying minutes.

The game was marred by violence from Russian fans inside the stadium. The Russian team have been handed a suspended disqualification as a result. More to follow…

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England Expectation: 9/10

As the form team in qualifying, England are rightfully one of the favourites in the tournament. A history of failure weighs heavy on the mentality of the team, something which may prove a bigger challenge than their opponents.

England Verdict: 7.5/10

England’s rating may seem harsh considering their exciting performance, however the disappointment at the final whistle would have felt all too familiar. Much more will be expected from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane in the crunch clash against Wales but, purely on performance, England may just live up to expectations.


Russia Expectations: 6/10

Russia have had a torrid time in recent years but a strong qualifying campaign will have lifted the spirits of the Russians. They will be relying on their star striker Artyom Dzyuba who netted 8 goals in qualifying.

Russia Verdict: 5/10

Russia were outclassed by a much more dynamic England whilst Dzyuba will have been disappointed with his performance. That being said, they kept themselves in the game and were rewarding in the end. A lucky point, but one that Russia can potentially build on against the weaker sides in the group.

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