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Preview: England v Russia, France v Italy

England continue the defence of their title against 2013 winners Russia while France, impressive in topping Group C, play an Italy side with "a lot of quality up front".

France are one of the best teams at the finals, according to Italy coach Bruno Tedino
France are one of the best teams at the finals, according to Italy coach Bruno Tedino ©LAP.bg

Saturday

England v Russia (15.00CET, Burgas)
• John Peacock is delighted with the "massive contributions" his players have made in Bulgaria. Seventeen of England's 18-strong squad featured as the holders topped Group D. Aston Villa FC centre-back Easah Suliman was the last outfield member to gain any minutes, stepping off the bench in the second half of the 1-0 win against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday for Danny Collinge, who received a knee to the back from goalkeeper Paul Woolston. "Everyone is really together – that was epitomised by Easah, who came on for 20 minutes at the end," said Peacock. "His defending was outstanding. That says a lot for the group."

Highlights: England 1-0 Republic of Ireland
Highlights: England 1-0 Republic of Ireland

Peacock is not concerned that, aside from an own goal, only Marcus Edwards has scored for England at the finals. "We always talk about being clinical – we work a lot on finishing, and it's a bit of a confidence thing at times," he said. "I'd be more worried if we weren't creating chances.

• Russia, winners in 2013, cannot wait to tackle the defending champions. Mikhail Galaktionov's team scraped through to the knockout stage from Group C by the slenderest of margins – their goal difference was +1 better than Greece's – thanks to a 2-0 success against Scotland in which Aleksandr Lomovitski was sent off. "England are a very strong team with several skilful players, good technical and fast strikers and a very organised defence," explained Galaktionov. "Everyone is willing to go out on to the pitch and is ready for the match. At this stage you don't choose your opponents."

Suspended: Aleksandr Lomovitski (Russia)

France v Italy (18.00, Stara Zagora)
• France coach Jean-Claude Giuntini has fitness worries over two key members of his squad, both of whom were left on the bench for the 1-0 defeat of Greece that meant Les Petits-Bleus finished with a perfect record in Group C. "We have a couple of players with minor injuries, midfielder Timothé Cognat and forward Odsonne Edouard, and we're not sure if they'll be able to play," he said. "The emotional side of this match will be very important because the stakes are so high."

Highlights: Netherlands 1-1 Italy
Highlights: Netherlands 1-1 Italy

The Azzurrini finished as runners-up on four points behind England in their section. "We played Italy last year in a UEFA development tournament in Portugal [winning 4-2] and we saw that they're a team in the Italian tradition," added Giuntini. "They've got a lot of quality up front, a very skilful midfield and a very strong defence that is good in one-on-one situations. I've not forgotten their keeper [Gianluigi Donnarumma], who has a lot of quality and is a positive influence on his team-mates."

• Giuntini's Italy counterpart Bruno Tedino singled out France as the "best team here alongside Germany". As for his own squad, he said: "We are trying to play on a consistent level and to have no ups and downs. Of course, it is difficult when you have a game every three days, but we want to be fully fit for each match."

Friday
Croatia 1-1 Belgium (Belgium win 5-3 on penalties)
Germany 0-0 Spain (Germany win 4-2 on penalties)