Fabio Capello surprisingly kept his job after the fiasco that was Russia’s World Cup, but he paid for a shaky start to the qualifying campaign and was replaced by Leonid Slutsky, the first Russian to manage the national team in nine years. He steered them to four successive victories, during which they conceded just two goals, earning the qualification from Group G in the second place behind Austria. Their friendlies have brought mixed results since they qualified, with victories over Portugal and Lithuania, but big defeats to Croatia and France.
England also endured a poor World Cup in 2014, but Roy Hodgson was given the chance to qualify for his third tournament as the national coach, and he guided a young team to ten successive victories, qualifying as Group E winners ahead of Switzerland and Slovenia. Since qualifying, they have shown promise against better European opposition in friendly matches, beating Germany and France, but have also shown their inconsistency, losing to Spain and the Netherlands.
England vs. Russia – H2H Stats
These two sides haven’t a lot of experience in playing against each other. They’ve met only twice since the fall of the Soviet Union, in the qualifying campaign for Euro 2008 when they found themselves paired together in Group E.
England won the first game 3-0 in September 2007, thanks to two goals scored by Michael Owen, but lost the return leg in Moscow a month later; conceding two goals in the last 21 minutes after Wayne Rooney had given them the lead in the first half.
Russia went on to qualify for Euro 2008 and reached the semi-finals, while England failed to qualify and manager Steve McClaren paid with his job.
It has been interesting to watch the way that Roy Hodgson has adapted his naturally conservative style of football to incorporate the array of young talent he now has at his disposal. England tends to play in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, varying that slightly to a 4-3-3 if they are playing against lesser opponents or if they are looking to utilise greater width when the pace and trickery of Raheem Sterling come into play.
Russia is likely to play more of a counter-attacking game, with their 4-5-1 formation suited to soaking up pressure, denying the pacey young England side any room to exploit behind their defence and forcing their opponents to play in front of them. As such, they may be happy to concede much of the midfield possession, confident that England lacks the creativity and invention to unlock a tightly-packed defence.
England vs. Russia Odds & Betting Markets
Psychology plays a major role in sport, and there is no doubt that England will go into this game under great pressure. Since the top three in this group could qualify for the second round, Russia would be delighted to take a point from their toughest fixture and expect to do well enough against Wales and Slovakia to get through. England, on the other hand, will not be relishing the game against Wales and will be keen to impose itself with maximum points from the first match.
We can expect England to have the majority of possessions and for them to try to take the game to Russia. They certainly have a great deal of exciting young talent in their squad, but we have been here before. History tells us that England almost always disappoints in the main tournaments because international football places more emphasis on technique than the high-speed style of the Premier League.
Russia is precisely the sort of well-organised, neat international team that could cause England side difficulties. Slutsky’s squad won’t contain any big stars, but it will be well-drilled and is likely to be made up mainly of players from one or two clubs, most notably Zenit St Petersburg, who are used to playing with each another. That will give them the benefit of coherence and understanding.
Although England has shown some fluency in their qualifying games, the pressure of an international tournament is something entirely different, and their lack of experience could be a problem.
I think they could struggle to find a way through the Russians, and their weakness in defence will always leave them vulnerable. The odds on a draw of 3.64 with Marathon Bet look like a good bet.
Odds for First Goalscorer
England’s array of strikers will dominate the first goalscorer market. Of the likely options, Harry Kane looks the best bet as he is the only one certain to start and to be in the main striker’s role. But there is little value in backing the Tottenham star as he’s currently around the 5.0 mark.
A more interesting alternative could be to side with their opponents. Russia will sit deep and play on the counter, relying primarily on Alan Dzagoev’s speed of thought and energy in midfield. He will be seeking any opportunity to unleash their main striker Artem Dzyuba, who was the star of Zenit St Petersburg’s Champions League campaign, scoring six goals in six games. He’s likely to have plenty of joy against a shaky England defence.
Back him at 13/2 with Ladbrokes to score the first goal.
Odds for Total Goals
With so many young attacking players in the side, lots of fans will be expecting goals from this England team. But it may not pan out that way.
Roy Hodgson is cautious by nature, and it’s worth looking at his record in major tournaments. Leaving aside a crazy 3-2 victory over Sweden at Euro 2012, Hodgson’s England have scored nine goals in his other six major tournament games, an average of 1.5 goals a game. Russia, by contrast, qualified on the basis of a strong and well-organised defensive effort.
Add in the pressure and nerves that always come with the opening game of a tournament.
I think it would be unrealistic to expect too many goals. Back Under 2.5 goals with Marathon Bet at 1.72 in the Total Goals market.
Updated on June 8, 2016