England – $1.95 at Sportsbet.com.au
Draw – $3.40 at www.Bet365.com
Russia – $4.80 at William Hill
Are England contenders, or still pretenders?
We’ll find out when they face Russia this Saturday in their opening clash of the 2016 European Championship finals.
Roy Hodgson’s men became only the sixth team in history to complete a perfect qualifying campaign, winning 10 games out of 10 to finish nine points clear in Group E.
That’s not to say it was a flawless campaign; it took late goals from Wayne Rooney to snatch away wins against Estonia and Slovenia, neither of whom qualified.
The England skipper was a colossus on the road to France, scoring seven goals, and yet his place in the starting lineup at the Euros is far from assured.
The form of Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy means England’s all-time leading scorer is surplus to requirements in the forward line.
It is expected he will start in an attacking midfield role on Saturday, with Kane up top in a 4-3-3 featuring Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling on either flank.
Nevertheless, the Manchester United man is rated a $6 chance at Sportsbet to open the scoring.
He is also paying $41 at CrownBet.com to finish as the Euro 2016 top goalscorer.
But whether or not the captain plays up front is hardly England’s biggest concern.
With so many big names now retired from international football, there is a noted lack of experience and leadership in the Three Lions dressing room.
Besides Rooney, only Jordan Henderson, James Milner and goalkeeper Joe Hart have survived from Hodgson’s squad for the 2012 Euro finals.
The midfield looks short on quality without the X-factor of Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard, while the defensive core of Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and John Stones is a far cry from the days of Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry.
The question is: do Russia have the firepower to exploit England’s supposed weaknesses?
Only one member of Leonid Slutsky’s squad plays outside the Russian Premier League – Schalke defender Roman Neustadter, who was granted citizenship less than a fortnight ago.
The depth of that roster will be tested even further now that Igor Denisov, a veteran of 52 international caps, has joined CSKA Moscow star Alan Dzagoev in the treatment room.
There are also concerns as to whether an inexperienced attack led by 25-year-old Aleksandr Kokorin has enough goals in it to pose any real problems.
With no Andrey Arshavin, Yuri Zhirkov, or Roman Pavlyuchenko, this is a very different side to the one that romped to the Euro 2008 semifinals under Guus Hiddink.
Nevertheless, Pavel Mamayev believes the Russians have the quality to test any opposition, although he knows they will have to bring their A-game to compete with England’s big names.
“I think England are a strong team,” the Krasnodar midfielder told reporters this week.
“Of course, they have world-class players but first and foremost they are a big team in Europe because they are a team, not individuals.
“But I believe that we have a very strong attacking team, all the players are in their prime and we are ready to take the fight to the English defence.”
Harry Kane first goalscorer bets
England are spoilt for strikers at the moment, but the Tottenham Hotspur vice-captain is probably the best of the bunch.
Kane bagged 25 goals to finish as top scorer in Premier League 2015-16, leading Spurs to the brink of title glory in the process.
He has also scored twice for his country this year, including the opener in England’s come-from-behind friendly win over Germany in March.
William Hill has the 22-year-old at $15 odds to outscore the rest of the field at Euro 2016, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Thomas Muller and Antoine Griezmann.
Exactly how Hodgson lines up his side in Marseille remains to be seen, but Kane is certain to be the focal point.
Anytime goalscorer – $2.45 (William Hill)
First England goalscorer – $4 (Sportsbet)
First match goalscorer – $5.50 (Sportsbet)
To score two goals or more – $9.50 (Sportsbet)
To score a hat-trick – $34 (Sportsbet)
England Euro 2016 squad
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster, Joe Hart, Tom Heaton.
Defenders: Ryan Bertrand, Gary Cahill, Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Rose, Chris Smalling, John Stones, Kyle Walker.
Midfielders: Dele Alli, Ross Barkley, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, James Milner, Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere.
Forwards: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy.
Russia Euro 2016 squad
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev, Yuri Lodygin, Guilherme Marinato.
Defenders: Aleksei Berezutski, Vasili Berezutski, Dmitri Kombarov, Sergei Ignashevich, Roman Neustadter, Georgi Shchennikov, Roman Shishkin, Igor Smolnikov.
Midfielders: Denis Glushakov, Aleksandr Golovin, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Mamayev, Aleksandr Samedov, Oleg Shatov, Roman Shirokov, Dmitri Torbinski, Artur Yusupov.
Forwards: Artyom Dzyuba, Aleksandr Kokorin, Fyodor Smolov.
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