Facing Russia at the European Championships does not bring back happy memories for England fans. In qualifying for Euro 2008, Russia beat England to the second qualifying spot behind Croatia, and eliminated Steve McClaren’s side from the competition. Although the Three Lions beat Russia at Wembley 3-0, they lost in Moscow 2-1 to send the Russians through to the finals in Austria and Switzerland.
In 1988, after arriving at the tournament with a lot of hype, especially after narrowly missing out on the World Cup Final two years earlier, Bobby Robson’s men were easily beaten 3-1 by the then-Soviet Union and sent home without a point to their name.
On a brighter note, Goals from Bobby Charlton (39) and Geoff Hurst (63) gave England victory against the Soviet Union in Rome in the 1968 UEFA European Championship third-place play-off – their best ever finish in the competition, equal with their place in 1996 when they hosted the tournament.
England come into the Euro 2016 Free Bets competition on a high, winning five out of their last six internationals, beating France and Germany along the way. They have a relatively young squad who appear full of running, even after a long club season in England. England manager Roy Hodgson has a lot of decisions to make, especially up front and in midfield, with almost an embarrassment of riches with the likes of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and even Wayne Rooney vying for spots in the attack.
At the back, England players have struggled and have conceded in almost all of their recent matches with John Stones and Gary Cahill carrying on disappointing club seasons onto their international form.
Russia has had a very uneven run into the tournament with three losses from their last six, although they did manage to score in every game. However, the squad had been boosted by a number of ‘naturalised’ Russians, including Brazilian-born goalkeeper Guilherme.
Some suggested this Russian squad, which is certainly ageing, is a pale reflection of some of the great Russian teams, and only two players ply their trade outside of the Russian Federation.