Group B takes the Spotlight
After France kick off Euro 2016 against Romania on Friday, the tournament gets into full flow on Saturday, with three matches spaced throughout the day.
The second Group A match – Albania against Switzerland – kicks off the action, before Group B’s opening round of games, Wales v Slovakia and England v Russia, take over the spotlight.
Group B looks to be one of the most intriguing sections in the draw, with England the clear favourites to top the group but all three of the other nations are harbouring realistic ambitions of making it through to the knock-out rounds of the tournament.
Albania will also be an intriguing team to watch. Strong favourites to be the lowest-scoring team at the finals, they have a winnable game up first in Switzerland, who sometimes struggle to impose themselves against sides perceived to be of lower quality to themselves.
It promises to be a mouth-watering day of action, but what do fantasy football players need to know before selecting their teams for Day 2 of Euro 2016?
Albania fantasy player to watch – Taulant Xhaka
Unknown quantities are rare in international football, but Euro 2016 is Albania’s debut appearance at a European Championship and it is difficult to know what to expect from Gianni de Biasi’s side.
Our selection for this game is therefore Taulant Xhaka, who could line up against his brother in the Switzerland game – Arsenal’s recent signing Granit Xhaka – which would be the first time siblings have played against each other in the European Championship. Like many of his international team-mates, Xhaka plays his club football in Switzerland, with Basel.
Taulant Xhaka – the elder of the two brothers by two years – is one of Albania’s most important players, but he has been carrying an injury in the build-up to the tournament. Xhaka often takes Albania’s corners, so he could pick up vital fantasy points from set-pieces at the Euros.
Switzerland fantasy player to watch – Fabian Schär
With Albania lacking a regular goalscorer, a Switzerland defender could be a wise pick on Day 2 of Euro 2016, with Fabian Schär one of the most intriguing options in the whole tournament.
The Hoffenheim centre-back is expected to be partnered by former Arsenal defender Johan Djourou, while it is Schär’s aerial ability that marks him out as a genuine fantasy football option.
Schär has made 19 appearances for his country but has scored five goals in a Switzerland shirt, a superb record for a defender, although the most recent of those strikes was back in March 2015.
Another Switzerland player to consider is Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodríguez, who takes a lot of his team’s set-pieces and is among his side’s primary attacking threats, despite lining up at left-back.
Wales fantasy player to watch – Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale may be an obvious pick here, but if European Championship debutants Wales are to progress through the group stages then the Real Madrid star, who is also his country’s youngest ever goalscorer, will have to be in top form.
Bale’s preparations for Euro 2016 have been disrupted by the Champions League final, where he scored in the shoot-out to help his side win the competition for the second time in three years.
A free role in attack is given to Bale by Wales coach Chris Coleman and he will also take the vast majority of the team’s free-kicks, as well as any penalties they win. Bale, who is the only genuine superstar in the team, is a big threat in the air too, so he will be a danger from Wales corners.
Bale scored seven of the 11 goals Wales managed during the whole qualifying process and he also provided a pair of assists, but will they prove to be a one-man team at the Euros?
Slovakia fantasy player to watch – Marek Hamšík
Marek Hamšík is comfortably the best-known player in Ján Kozák’s side, who recently beat world champions Germany 3-1 to raise expectations about their chances at this summer’s tournament.
Napoli midfielder Hamšík is expected to be the number 10 in Slovakia’s 4-2-3-1 formation, giving him both freedom to create and the chance to be a major goal threat as well.
Hamšík, who scored five goals in the qualifying group for Slovakia, is regarded as the team’s star man. He needs to fire if they are to make it out of what looks likely to be a tight group.
England fantasy player to watch – Harry Kane
England’s squad is heavy on attacking talent, with Harry Kane likely to spearhead the team’s forward line. Tottenham Hotspur striker Kane won the Premier League Golden Boot last season after hitting 25 goals in his side’s title charge, which ultimately fell by the wayside in the closing weeks of the season, with Leicester City surprisingly taking the championship.
Kane, with five goals from 12 England caps to date, seems to have done enough to seal his place in the side and his direct style seems well suited to international football. Intriguingly, Kane has also been taking England’s corners and set-pieces during the warm-up matches – to the frustration of the media and many fans – which could boost his fantasy points score this summer.
Russia fantasy player to watch – Artyom Dzyuba
Russia’s star striker Artyom Dzyuba shoulders his team’s attacking burden, having hit eight goals during the qualifying campaign. The 27-year-old has a strong record in international football, with nine strikes from 18 caps, and heads to Euro 2016 on the back of a fine domestic campaign.
Dzyuba hit 15 goals in 30 appearances for Zenit St Petersburg, while he has four goals in his last eight appearances for club and country too. With Russia’s all-time leading scorer Aleksandr Kerzhakov left out of Leonid Slutsky’s 23-man squad, the nation’s hopes rest squarely on Dzyuba.