Managers ready for 'Battle of Britain'

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale (left) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey will be familiar with England when they meet on June 16 in their Euro 2016 Group B match. Wales have 22 of their likely 23 playing in the Premier League, with the exception of Bale, who is a
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale (left) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey will be familiar with England when they meet on June 16 in their Euro 2016 Group B match. Wales have 22 of their likely 23 playing in the Premier League, with the exception of Bale, who is a former Tottenham Hotspur player. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hodgson says Bale is biggest threat, Coleman admits that he was hoping to avoid England

LONDON • Luis Suarez at last year's World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo at the 2006 edition, and Helder Postiga at Euro 2004. In 2016, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale?

For England, at major tournaments, forewarned has seldom proved forearmed. And their draw for Euro 2016 - grouped with Wales, Russia and Slovakia - is reasonable but ominous.

Roy Hodgson must avert an old syndrome of the Three Lions being killed at Finals by hunters familiar to the Premier League.

Twenty-two of Chris Coleman's likely 23 are the enemies within, working in the Premier League. The exception is Real Madrid's Bale, who inspired Wales to their first major Finals since the 1958 World Cup.

MIND GAMES

One of the things we will be concerned with will be stopping (Gareth Bale) and limiting his chances but I would like to think we have one or two players that will occupy (Wales coach Chris Coleman's) mind.

ROY HODGSON, England national coach, on meeting Wales

  • Euro 2016

  • Group A: France, Romania, Albania, Switzerland.

    Group B: England, Russia, Wales, Slovakia.

    Group C: Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Northern Ireland.

    Group D: Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia.

    Group E: Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Sweden.

    Group F: Portugal, Iceland, Austria, Hungary.

    • The top two teams in each group and the four best third-placed teams advance to the last 16.

    • The Finals begin on June 10 and end with the final in Paris on July 10.

The former Tottenham star flying in attack and Arsenal midfielder Ramsey teasing from deeper, will test England on June 16 in a way they failed to deal with at the World Cup in Brazil.

There, the intensity of Suarez and a grudge game with Uruguay caused a young Hodgson side to lose their heads.

The side will still be young next summer and will have to deal better in Lens than in Sao Paulo in 2014, where the sheer passion of Suarez and his countrymen blew them out of the group stage.

Hodgson conceded familiarity does not necessarily breed content, when it comes to opponents in the Finals.

"I think we will be equally well prepared for each team we play. Off the top of my head it is easier to speak about the Wales team than the Slovakia or Russian team but that is not the case when we approach the tournament," he said.

"One of the things we will be concerned with will be stopping (Gareth Bale) and limiting his chances but I would like to think we have one or two players that will occupy Chris' mind."

Coleman had previously admitted that England, who have twice reached the semi-finals of the European Championship (1968 and 1996), were the one team he was hoping to avoid.

He cited fears that a "Battle of Britain" could act as a distraction, but remained confident his players would rise to the challenge.

"It was more to do with the hype surrounding the game. There are three games to play and we can't get caught up with just playing England," he explained. "We've been waiting for this moment and whatever group we were in, and I'm not being flippant, I think we can beat any team on our day."

If any team from the British Isles could be forgiven for complaining about the outcome of Saturday's draw in Paris, it was Martin O'Neill's Republic of Ireland side.

They are in the "Group of Death" with Belgium, the No. 1 team in Fifa's world rankings, Euro 2012 finalists Italy, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden.

"Difficult games to look forward for the fans but it could not be tougher for us," O'Neill told the BBC.

"I thought I was going to enjoy the draw, I'm not sure I have done."

Spain will begin their bid for an unprecedented third successive European Championship title against the Czech Republic. Turkey and Croatia complete Group D.

"We've drawn two teams who played in the same group as the Netherlands (in qualifying) and eliminated them, Turkey and Czech Republic," Spain manager Vicente del Bosque said.

"We also have to face Croatia, who are very strong and are among the strongest teams at this tournament.

"They have excellent players. It will be very difficult for us."

World champions Germany are to meet Ukraine, Poland and Northern Ireland in Group C.

"I am happy with our Euro 2016 group. Hold back against us, Lewy!" tweeted Germany's Thomas Mueller on the prospect of facing Bayern Munich team-mate Robert Lewandowski, scorer of 15 Bundesliga goals so far this season, and his Poland side.

Only Lewandowski (13 goals) and Ibrahimovic (11) scored more goals in qualifying than Mueller (nine).

The odds on hosts France winning the European Championship shortened after they were handed an easy group alongside Romania, Albania and Switzerland.

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'MANAGERS READY FOR 'BATTLE OF BRITAIN''. Print Edition | Subscribe