Euro 2016: Matchday 2 in Group B

Cormac O'DonnellEuropean Championship0 Comments

In Group B, England recovered from their opening game embarrassment whilst Slovakia built on the positive signs shown in their encounter with Wales.

Daniel Sturridge celebrates with Liverpool teammates Adam Lalana and Jordan Henderson. Courtesy: theguardian.com

Daniel Sturridge celebrates with Liverpool teammates Adam Lalana and Jordan Henderson. Courtesy: theguardian.com

England 2-1 Wales

After the heartbreaking draw against Russia, the last thing England wanted was a heated derby game against a bouyant Wales. Pre-game comments on both sides, led mostly by ex-Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, added further spice to an already simmering expectation.

England edged a tight first forty minutes, clear that neither side wished to risk an inch to the other. A careless tackle from Wayne Rooney showed the veteran’s lack of experience in midfield. Bale punished the error with a well-hit 30-yard strike, his second free-kick goal in as many games. Questions will be asked of Joe Hart who really should have palmed the shot beyond his post.

Roy Hodgson introduced both Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge to the game after the break. Both would repay the favour in equal measure before the final whistle. A poorly misplaced header from captain Ashley Williams fell straight to the feet of Vardy, who seems to have the golden touch this season. Wales were forced closer to their own goal with every passing minute and an intricate move in the dying moments of the game presented Sturridge the perfect opportunity to prod the ball beyond the sprawling Wayne Hennessey, sealing victory for England.

  Euro 2016: Matchday 2 in Group A

England Verdict: 8/10 (⇑0.5)

Another dynamic England performance was let down by the seemingly brainless Raheem Sterling and clearly exhausted Harry Kane. Their replacements sparked life into England, completing the puzzle for Hodgson. Wales might count themselves unlucky to concede so late but, in truth, they were second best today.

Wales Verdict: 6/10 (⇓1)

The occasion seemed to get the better of certain players today, Williams’ mistake on the first goal being a prime example. At times Gareth Bale felt isolated and Wales generally struggled to link their play. In saying that, they held their own for most of the game against an excellent side whilst Bale showed his ability to produce magic, even on an off day.

Skrtel jumps with joy after the final whistle. Courtesy: worldsoccer.com

Skrtel jumps with joy after the final whistle. Courtesy: worldsoccer.com

Russia 1-2 Slovakia

More eyes were on the crowd approaching this fixture with Russia’s suspended disqualification looming over the events on the pitch. It soon became clear that the Russian players didn’t need any help from their fans to ensure an early exit as they flopped to an impressive Slovakia side.

Marek Hamsik provided the most delightful individual performance in the tournament to date as his sumptuous assist for Vladimir Weiss was followed up with a delicious strike from the edge of the box made it 2-0 to Slovakia. As the half-time whistle blew Russia were left with a mountain to climb.

Slovakia appeared to be cruising to victory until a clever one-two resulted in the ball being delivered into the box and powered into the bottom corner of the Slovakian goal from the head of Glushakov. Russia failed to capitalize after a tense final ten minutes but will have been given just a glimmer of hope as Gareth Bale’s Wales approach.

  Euro 2016: Matchday 1 in Group B

Russia Verdict: 5/10 (-)

A final flurry of chances does not make up for an otherwise flat performance. Russia attempted to open against Slovakia but were punished defensively. This is a second game in which Russia have been outclassed. Wales will be looking forward to their final game.

Slovakia Verdict: 8/10 (⇑1)

The promising glimpses Slovakia showed against Wales were on full show. One theme of this tournament has been key players; every team seems to have a star they rely on. Napoli’s Hamsik offered up a beautiful performance, displaying both his ability as goalscorer and playmaker. A fascinating meeting with England awaits.

How Things Stand

  Played Goal Difference Points
England 2 +1 4
Wales 2 3
Slovakia 2 3
Russia 2 -1 1

After their derby triumph, England now only require a point to progress. Only a win will definitively secure automatic qualification for Wales after their loss to England. Their superior head-to-head over Slovakia means that a draw for both will also see the Welsh progress meaning Slovakia need to win their final fixture. Russia will retain hope as an unlikely victory over Wales, in addition with an England victory, will send them through.

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