Euro 2016 Group B: UAE Fans Preview

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Who will win Group B?

Euro 2016 begins on Friday and Sport360 will be bringing you a fans’-eye view of the tournament thanks to our collection of 24 UAE-based supporters, who will be following their nations every step of the way.

Group B pits England against neighbours Wales, Russia and Slovakia. Here, our fan pundits have their say on their nations’ chances in France.

ENGLAND – Peter Redding (Account Director, Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE ENGLAND GAME EVER AT THE EUROS?

A lot of people will say the Scotland game at Euro ‘96 but for me it was thrashing Netherlands 4-1. Everything clicked and it was arguably England’s finest performance at a major finals – braces from Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham sent the Three Lions into the quarters.

GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

I think England vs Wales – a great home nation affair at a major championship, which we haven’t had since facing Scotland at Euro ’96. No doubt it will catch all of the UK’s attention.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR MANAGER?

Roy Hodgson is an establishment boss who has made most of his selections based on reputations rather than current form. Picking Marcus Rashford was a bold move but will be interesting to see if he actually uses him. Don’t think Hodgson should still be in his position really after the abomination that was the 2014 World Cup.

ENGLAND PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

I’ll go with Rashford (if Roy ever gives him a chance); the Manchester United striker is a fearless young man who is very confident in his own ability. A dangerous asset.

HOW FAR WILL ENGLAND GO AT EURO 2016?

Quarter-final heartache after a penalty shootout defeat, anybody? As usual, the English media is building up expectations but England are not really among the favourites.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT ENGLAND?

World Cup-winning coach Alf Ramsey was the first England manager to pick the team himself. Before that, the national team was chosen by a selection committee.

WHAT WILL ENGLAND FANS BE EATING DURING MATCHES?

Expect sales of chicken tikka masala and pukka pies to go through the roof!

RUSSIA – Lenar Sayfullin (FIFA Match Agent, Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE RUSSIA GAME EVER AT THE EUROS?

Russia’s dramatic victory over Netherlands in the 2008 quarter-finals. We were leading 1-0 until Ruud van Nistelrooy’s late equaliser, but then  Dmitiri Torbinski and Andrei Arshavin scored in extra-time to give Russia a 3-1 win. Unfortunately, we lost to Spain in the semis.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR COACH?

Leonid Slutskiy is the most talented of all Russian managers at the moment, having just won the Russian Premier League title with CSKA Moscow. The players have been singing his praises and say the atmosphere in the national team camp is positive, which can only be a good thing!

RUSSIA PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

FC Krasnodar forward Fedor Smolov may not be too well known outside of Russia but he was the top scorer in the Russian Premier League this season with 20 goals.

GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

Russia vs England on June 11 – it’s the opening match and England are favourites for the group so it will be a good test of where Russia are in terms of quality and ambition.

HOW FAR WILL RUSSIA GET AT EURO 2016?

Quarter-finals

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT RUSSIA

All the players in the national team play in Russia except Roman Neustadter, a defensive midfielder who plays for FC Schalke. He has actually played one game for the Germany national team but he has Russian roots and became naturalised in May 2016, just in time for the Euros!

WHAT DO RUSSIAN FANS EAT DURING A GAME?

Usually it’s just snacks like pizza, chips, nuts etc – all washed down with some hops!

HOW DO YOU SAY ‘GOAL’ IN RUSSIAN?

GOL (гол)

WHERE WILL YOU BE WATCHING EURO 2016?

Dubai Sports City’s Football Fanfest.

WALES – Danny Phillips (Dealer Development, Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE WALES GAME EVER AT THE EUROS?

As we haven’t qualified before, it would have to be Wales 2-1 Italy in Euro 2004 qualifying. The Millennium was absolutely rocking, with passionate fans on both sides (including lots of Welsh-Italians) and the boys were amazing. John Hartson bullied the Italian defence, Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy were flying on both sides, Gary Speed pulled the strings and Robbie Savage tackled everything. A great game!

GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

Most Wales fans would say England but if that becomes the focus then I think it is limiting our ambitions. I would say the Russia game, we will have something to play for to make the last-16.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR MANAGER?

Chris Coleman is exactly what the team needed after the tragic loss of Gary Speed. Where Gary had taken the side forwardly structurally and technically, ‘Cookie’ has managed to now extract the best from the players, taken the pressure of Aaron Ramsey and has given Gareth Bale license to take the game to the opposition. The squads mantra is “together, stronger” and that is down to Coleman.

WALES PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

Wales are not blessed with great forwards. In fact if we could add one of John Charles, John Toshack, Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, John Hartson or Craig Bellamy we would really be in business. However, in Hal Robson-Kanu we may just have the surprise package up front. He’s big, strong, has an eye for goal and is honest as the day is long. Plus he is without a club so what a shop window!

PREDICTION – HOW FAR WILL WALES GO AT EURO 2016?

Quarter-finals….no semi-finals, maybe scrape through on penalties. No, actually glorious defeat in the final. Scrap all that, winners!

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT WALES?

When Cardiff City won the FA Cup in 1927, Arsenal goalkeeper Jack Kelsey (a Wales international) blamed defeat on his new jersey for being too shiny – as the ball squirmed underneath him for the winning goal. To this day Arsenal keepers never wear new shirts in cup finals.

WHAT ARE WELSH FANS MOST LIKELY TO EAT DURING THE GAME?

National dish?! Err, hotdogs it is then boys!

HOW DO YOU SAY GOAL IN WELSH?

GOOOAALL

​WHERE WILL YOU BE WATCHING EURO 2016?

Media One is a fantastic venue and I’m organising a group of fans from Dubai Welsh Society to watch the games there so please join us if you fancy it!

SLOVAKIA – Jozef Uhrovsky (Leadership Trained, Dubai)

MOST MEMORABLE SLOVAKIA GAME EVER AT THE EUROS?

This will be our first European Championship appearance so VERY excited. We played at the World Cup in 2010 of course but if I had to pick a memorable European result it would be the 2-1 Euro qualifying victory over Spain that set us on our way to Euro 2016. It really built confidence.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR COACH?

Jan Kozak was a very well respected player for Slovakia and his managerial approach can’t be faulted. Had some good spells domestically with FC Kosice and has worked wonders with the national team. A passionate and emotional guy, Kozak always gives it his all and wears his heart on his sleeve.

SLOVAKIA PLAYER WHO MIGHT SURPRISE US?

Perhaps not the biggest surprise but beyond just being Slovakia’s best player, I think Marek Hamsik could be one of the best players of the whole tournament. The Napoli midfielder is a world class and the national team’s key creative force.

GROUP GAME YOU ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?

It has to be England. Obviously both Russia and Wales are good sides and will be a stern test but I think we have the credentials to repeat our famous win against Italy at the 2010 World Cup.

HOW FAR WILL SLOVAKIA GET AT EURO 2016?

It’s a tough group to get out of but I have belief we can at least make it to the quarter-finals.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT SLOVAKIA

Slovakia’s first ever official game after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia was actually against the UAE in Dubai in 1994.

WHAT DO SLOVAKIAN FANS EAT DURING A GAME?

Sausages and plenty of hops!

HOW DO YOU SAY ‘GOAL’ IN SLOVAKIAN?

GOAAAL

WHERE WILL YOU WATCH EURO 2016 GAMES?

Barasti of course.

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Nike Football's 'The Switch' ft. Ronaldo, Kane, Martial & more

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#360view: France to reach Euro 2016 final and meet Spain

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Potential champions?: Hosts France.

With the new, supposedly improved and extended European Championships upon us, here are six bold, and not-so bold, predictions for the 15th edition of the tournament.

You can share with us your own thoughts on the upcoming competition by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

France will coast through

It will take a catastrophic set of performances by Didier Deschamps team to finish anywhere other than top of their group with a healthy goal difference.

Even the fixtures have panned out nicely for Les Bleus; a defensively-minded but limited Romania side are a perfect opening, followed by Albania – among the weakest sides in the competition – and finally the Swiss who haven’t beaten their neighbours in their last six meetings going back to 1992.

With such attacking firepower, if Deschamps can ensure no silly mistakes at the back, Group A should yield maximum points.

Russia will be hopeless

Leonid Slutsky is a fine coach who has done an admirable job, picking up the pieces post-Capello but there is little to suggest they can make any kind of impact. They have the second-oldest squad in the competition and while that can be taken two ways, against such vibrant and quick attacking teams like England, Slovakia and Gareth Bale-inspired Wales, it’s only likely to lead to one result.

The Berezutski brothers and Sergei Ignashevich were decent defenders in their prime but are either in, or approaching, their mid-30s, while keeper Igor Akinfeev is a disaster waiting to happen.

Slovakia will entertain

As wins against Germany, Switzerland and Spain show, Slovakia are a real threat in Group B and have an outside chance of even topping it.

That may be stretching things a little far, as defensively there remain serious doubts, but going forward expect to see some fast-paced, rapid and blistering counter attacking that makes them an entertaining prospect.

Vladimir Weiss and Miroslav Stoch have never fulfilled their potential at club level but for the national side are a vicious dual wing threat while the brilliant Marek Hamsik holds it all together.

There will be lots of goals

From each of the six top seeds down to the minnows, there are only a handful of teams – Italy being one – who can say they have no concerns over their defence.

France are lacking pace due to injuries, England look error-prone and a little disorganised, despite impressive personnel Germany haven’t convinced post-Philipp Lahm, Spain may still have Iker Casillas in goal, Belgium are Vincent Kompany-less and Portugal will probably start the 38-year-old Ricardo Carvalho.

These sort of doubts extend to the next tier of nations like Croatia, Turkey, Poland and Switzerland.

There’s hope for the smaller nations, if they choose to attack while most matches should naturally breed higher-scoring results.

Raphael will be a star

Brilliant Lorient attacking full-back Raphael Guerreiro looks, given the minutes he’s earned in the warm-ups, to be Portugal’s starting left-back and in a group of limited quality expect him to produce some Jordi Alba-like displays.

He also possesses a wicked free-kick…if he’s allowed to take any.

Spain v France in the final

If Spain can start David De Gea and get Alvaro Morata scoring, their route to the final, based on them winning Group D, should read: Iceland, Poland and Portugal. France, who have it all mapped out, should face: Sweden, Austria and Germany.

Both last-four ties will be extremely tough but a home crowd and tournament know-how will lead to a hosts v holders final on July 10… with Spain to triumph for an unlikely hat-trick.

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