Wales v. Russia
The magic number in this group stage is really 4 points. If you get to 4 points, you’re almost certainly through to the knock-out stage. With three points, it will most likely come down to goal differential. So, for this game, that means Wales needs a draw and Russia needs a win to feel safe about advancing. I don’t think it’s in Russia’s nature to chase the game in the way they will need to here, and I’ll say that leaves them exposed to counter-attacks led by the speedy Gareth Bale. Wales moves on and the Russians and their hooligan fans go home.
Prediction: Wales 2, Russia 1
England v. Slovakia
England is the only team in this group already sitting on those 4 points. Does that give manager Roy Hodgson the green-light to continue tinkering with his line-up here?
In England’s win over Wales, it was easy to credit Hodgson’s substitutes, as the two goals were scored by subs. Still, he deserves credit for making a double-switch at halftime, that involved inserting two strikers in Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. It would be a shock if he didn’t start this game with two strikers, and with Raheem Sterling as the attacking midfielder left out of the line-up. The question is, which two strikers? Obviously, Vardy and Sturridge had great impact, but does Harry Kane get left out? Sturridge would seem to be the third option of the three, but he was the one that really had the best impact in that last game. I’m really not sure which two he will go with, but it would be hard for me to leave Sturridge out after what he did against Wales.
For Slovakia, Marek Hamsik has absolutely been one of the best players of the tournament. Even though he’s 28-years-old and not a young buck, I would be surprised if some big clubs don’t get on the phone to Napoli to try to pry him away in the coming months. The Slovaks need a draw to get to their four points.
Prediction: England 1, Slovakia 1