By Liz Manning (England) & Aidan Slinn (Russia)
England (Liz Manning)
“Do you want to join a sweepstake with me?” Asks my boyfriend Ollie. “You’ll have to write about the team you’ve chosen though.”
“But I don’t know anything about football teams.”
“Just do that thing where you write about how you don’t know anything about football. It worked last time.”
I agree to two teams. After all, doubling my chances at the sweepstake prize? Who wouldn’t do that?!
Cue 3 hours later and I’m standing in Ollie’s parents kitchen with Ollie, Jed and Amber, listening to “Football’s coming home” and I’ve drawn Poland then England.
“Oooh, you’ll have a lot of writing to do!” Ollie says.
“What do you mean? Why?”
“Because they’ll probably be playing a lot of games!”
And that is when I realised that I had agreed to write a preview for my teams before each game. Not just before the tournament, as I had thought. That is when I realised that I had agreed to possibly watch the whole bloody Euro 2016 tournament.
I feel a certain amount of pressure having drawn England in the sweepstakes. Hopefully as the Euro’s progress, so will my knowledge of the England football team. Today’s already been successful, as the England rugby team beat Australia in whatever rugby tournament is going on right now.
Maybe it’s just because I’ve spent the last few weeks holed up in my room studying for exams, but I haven’t really seen much Euro 2016 hype around London. I know it’s happening only because Ollie and I are going to watch Iceland vs Austria in France later on in the month, and because a friend Snapchatted me a video of himself singing “footballs coming home” in the bath on Thursday evening…
I took to England football team’s official Twitter page, and sigh as I follow them. They currently only have Big Sam (<3) for company in my list of who I’m following…
Where will I be watching?
From the comforts of my Dad’s home in cold, hard Merseyside, with my Dad and Ollie.
Players to watch
@England provides me with a good deal of pre-Euro hype. The key facts I need to (but may not) remember: England is in group B with Russia, Wales and Slovakia. Their key player is Wayne Rooney, who’s favourite Euro moment ever was his first goal in 2004. The best England have ever done in the Euros was reaching the semi finals in 1968 and 1996… Apparently Rooney’s feathers were ruffled yesterday by a Russian journalist who said that “Rooney’s opponents no longer fear him”. Don’t let the haters get you down, Wayne! I’m sure it’s just typical pre-match trash talk. I believe in you. And hey, things are different now. It’s a new year, and I vaguely remember that Ollie wrote an article about England being full of young and promising players nowadays (supportive girlfriend points!).
Predicted Score: England 3 – 1 Russia
Rooney says that England know how important this match is. He remembers losing to Italy in the first match of the 2014 World Cup, and what it cost them. However, he says the team are excited and ready. If Wayne Rooney can be optimistic, so can I! England 3 – Russia 1
Russia (Aidan Slinn)
How I will watch it
The tournament is underway and the sweepstakes have been drawn. When I saw my name assigned to Russia, I thought to myself, ok that’s not bad, it could definitely but worse. Now, however I’m feeling conflicted as my new sweepstake team are set to line up against England tonight.
I will be finding a busy London pub with a large screen to enjoy tonight’s game with some friends, so I will at least have the comfort a few beers to steady the nerves around kick off time.
I am really looking forward to the game and seeing what Russia can do a on the big stage, they will want to show Europe’s elite what they are all about prior to hosting the World Cup in two years time.
Players to watch
Leonid Slutsky’s side have been hit by the injuries to Alan Dzagoev, Igor Denisov and former Chelsea player Yuri Zhirkov. Dzagoev’s injury came as a cruel blow on the final day of the domestic season and it denies Russia of the chief creator in midfield.
Wide man Oleg Shatov who is one of six Zenit St Petersburg players in the national side will be called upon to generate some chances for his country. The winger is quick with the ball at his feet and has a great final delivery.
The player most like to convert the said chances is Artem Dyzuba, also of Zenit. The 27 year old has had a stellar season scoring 23 goals in all competitions for his club and bagged a remarkable 8 goals in Russia’s qualifying campaign for this tournament, at odds of 80/1 he’s my tip for a wildcard top goal scorer bet. Chris Smalling and John Stones will have their work cut out marking the 6ft5in target man.
Predicted Score: England 2 – 0 Russia
Maybe I haven’t learnt my lesson from the consistent disappointment that is following England at major tournaments, but I just can’t look past the talent in Roy Hodgson’s side.
The big question for Russia is how they cope with the loss of the playmaker Alan Dzagoev. The deep lying playmaker has the ability to turn games on the head and dictate play from midfield, if he had been fit he would have caused England a lot of problems.
Russia’s key to the game will be creating chances for the big man upfront Dyzuba. It will be a physical battle for England’s defence but keeping him under control could be the path to success.
Both teams will be aiming to make it out of the group, if Russia go on to beat England today then they will certainly be favourites for the top spot.