It's showtime for Roy Hodgson's men who are expected to beat Russia on Saturday night.
England are the favourites in Group B and having gone through qualifying with a 100% record expectations are far higher for Roy Hodgson’s side than two years ago. We rate Russia as their toughest opponents in this group but with a significant difference between them they look strong favourites heading into this match.
Since the last World Cup, England have won 13 of 14 matches against teams below them in our rankings, with eight wins to nil and 10 of these victories coming by more than one goal. However, their group stage record in the last three major tournaments is a poor W3-D4-L2 despite facing just one side ranked higher than them. While that history might affect many teams it should have less of an impact on an English squad that is amongst the youngest in the whole tournament and not tarnished by past failures. Since 2010, England are unbeaten in 10 competitive games against teams ranked 20-50 with six wins, and they’ve recorded friendly victories over the two biggest favourites for this tournament, Germany and France, in the past year.
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Russia are an ageing side but their manager, Leonid Slutsky, knows the players well having also managed CSKA Moscow to the Russian title in the past season. After a slow start to their qualifying campaign under Fabio Capello the change of manager led to a significant improvement. However, the likes of Liechtenstein, Montenegro and Moldova were not the toughest of challenges and the fact they only scored 10 times in eight qualifiers when excluding Moldova highlights a lack of attacking flair in this side. Their last five matches at major Finals have all had fewer than three goals as have eight of their 11 games against top-20 ranked sides since 2012, while they’ve lost the last three of those that weren’t at home.
England’s defence is their weakness but given Russia’s less than formidable attack and likely conservative style we expect the Three Lions to start this tournament with a clean sheet and also a win. Under 2.5 Goals looks likely but at around 1.60 is a bit short for us to get involved in. One player that Russia will have to pay particularly close attention to is Harry Kane, who has scored in two of his last three starts for England and netted nine times in his final 10 Premier League games this season. He’s 2.5 to score at some point and 5.0 to be the first name on the scoresheet, as he’s been in five of his last 14 starts for club and country.
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