Mark O’Haire’s Euro Tips – Russia v Wales
Winner takes all in Monday night’s Group B concluder between Russia and Wales from Toulouse.
Russia v Wales, Monday 20th June 2016 (20.00), RTE Two & ITV 4
Three points for either side would be enough to secure a place at Euro 2016’s Last-16 stage so the stakes are high with plenty still to play for.
Wales must beat Russia to guarantee a top-two finish with the Dragons available to back at 2/1 to produce the goods. But a draw should also be enough to progress and it’s available to support at 21/10.
Russia followed up their last-gasp 1-1 draw with England by losing 2-1 to Slovakia last time out and now know they must beat Wales if they are to stand any chance of reaching the knockout stages. The Sbornaya are rated a 13/8 chance to pick up maximum points.
Daniel Sturridge’s stoppage-time winner saw Wales surrender their one-goal lead against England and put the Dragons’ qualification hopes on ice. Gareth Bale’s 30-yard free-kick had given Chris Coleman’s men a first-half advantage in Lens and the decisive Sturridge blow saw a clutch of players slump to the turf in agony at the final whistle.
Wales were second best against England, not offering enough attacking options around the world-class talent of Bale, but there is a resilience and unity about the team that serves them well.
The Dragons were outstanding defensively until the late twist. Their fate, however, remains in their own hands and this Wales team will not go quietly. With a point likely to prove enough, a place in the Last-16 in their first major tournament since 1958 would be deemed success.
Lacking Fight On The Pitch
For Russia, a 2-0 deficit against Slovakia proved too big a hurdle to overcome despite Denis Glushakov headed consolation. With the side threatened with disqualification if their fans misbehave inside stadiums, the Sbornaya appeared to lack the fight and tools to compete on the pitch in Lille.
Slovakia’s defensive effort as Russia applied pressure late on was admirable but Leonid Slutsky’s charges never really convinced in the final third whilst their defensive positioning was ragged; right-back Igor Smolnikov particularly directionless.
It’s now just one win in seven for Russia and head coach Slutsky – at 45, the youngest at Euro 2016 – looked distraught as he sat on his bench in silence after the final whistle. The momentum he gave the Sbornaya’s qualifying campaign after succeeding Fabio Capello has seemingly been lost and a group-stage exit looms.
Thirteen Russian attempts missed the target against Slovakia and there appeared an obvious lack of ideas or invention when falling behind. With Wales similar in stature and approach to Slovakia, a carbon copy of Russia’s 2-1 defeat cannot be ruled out and the Sbornaya look uneasy favourites.
Wales shut up shop in home and away matches with Belgium during qualification and picked up two clean sheets and four points. Coleman’s charges proved again against England they’re awkward opponents and with the world’s most expensive player leading the attack, the Dragons appear underrated at 21/20 in the Draw No Bet market.
Russia have kept just two clean sheets in their past 17 games at the European Championship finals and were far from convincing en-route to France – exclude games against Moldova and the Sbornaya scored just 10 goals in eight qualifiers despite facing no major nation in their qualification pool, as well as the likes of Liechtenstein and Montenegro.
Both these sides have defensive concerns; Wales are without a clean sheet in six and Russia have failed to silence four of their last five opponents.
With that in mind, Over 2.5 Goals (11/8) looks a runner in a game that both sides – in theory at least – need to win.
The final group games at European Championship tend to be higher-scoring: since 1992, 59% of final group-games have featured three or more goals, compared with just 36% in the first two pool matches.
Wales will be aware that a point should suffice in their quest to reach the knockout stages of Euro 2016 but the Dragons will also know a victory could easily see Coleman’s troops pinch top spot in the pool.
Wales draw no bet (21/20)
Over 2.5 Goals (11/8)
*Prices correct at time of publication.