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Euro 2016: 5 crucial matches that could decide the group standings

Liam Flin
Top 5 / Top 10
954   //    08 Jun 2016, 20:43 IST

euro 2016

With the Euro 2016 curtain on the brink of rising, fans of the continent's finest football nations are suspended in a state of supreme anticipation. More teams and more chances play like sweet music to the ears of underdog enthusiasts and it's sure to be one of the most open European Championships in a long time.

Put the champagne on ice though, for there's still the small matter of the group stages before any team can get carried away with themselves. Progression to the knockout phase is more accessible than ever, with 24 sides competing and the fact that, along with all the group winners and runners-up, the four best third-placed teams also advance to the first ever Euro last 16 stage. 

The groups are tight though and the chances of qualifying for the knockout phases hinge on specific fixtures, here's a select five that could decide the final standings, which you should keep an eye out for...

England vs Wales

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Sandwiched between England's opener with a stagnating Russia and their final group game against debutants Slovakia, this battle of the British will have added spice for a host of reasons. 

It is likely that these two will be favourites to progress; Russia are without key man Alan Dzagoev and the heart of their defence has a combined age elapsing seventy, while debutants Slovakia lack any real firepower from back to front.

Therefore it is expected that both England and Wales will have won their opening encounters, or at the very least picked up a point, and so the victors of this clash would undoubtedly secure qualification, meanwhile casting a cloud of doubt over the advancement of their geographical neighbours. 

On the contrary, this match could also prove important if England suffer a shock opening match defeat to Russia, as a follow-up loss to Wales would send the Three Lions packing in one of the worse scenarios possible.

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Liam Flin
Writer for the Racing Post
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