Three Lions need three points
Roy Hodgson won’t be panicking yet, but he might be if England don’t take all three points against Wales.
The draw against Russia, and Wales’ victory over Slovakia, has put the Dragons in the driving seat in Group B, which sets up this clash up nicely. It will be a crash, bang, wallop, Premier League-style contest. The atmosphere will be electric and it should be a cracking game. I can’t wait. But it’s a no-win situation for England – the expectation is entirely on their shoulders. While a draw wouldn’t spell the end of their qualification hopes, a victory is a must. They need to keep their heads and play football.
Roy would have seen enough in the first half against Russia to know that a repeat will see England prevail – and I’m confident they can do just that.
England v Wales: The key clashes
It doesn’t sound like England will man mark Gareth Bale so it will be interesting to see how they control the Real Madrid star – and who he targets.
He’ll have license to roam. Will he use it to target the full backs, who he knows so well from his Tottenham days? He’ll have faced them plenty of times in training so will be wary of their strengths and looking to exploit their weaknesses. They have the pace to stay close to Bale, as does Chris Smalling, but Bale will know he’s got the legs on Gary Cahill, so the Chelsea defender could have his hands full.
At the other end of the pitch, all eyes will be on Harry Kane. After an off-colour performance on matchday one, he simply has to perform. However, his record against Ashley Williams is mixed. In the four Premier League games against Swansea over the last two seasons, Kane has scored once, netted an own goal, and been substituted three times.
Realistically, he’s probably got 60-70 minutes to score – or at least make a big impression – otherwise it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jamie Vardy or Daniel Sturridge on in his place.
A game of two halves
It might be a cliché but it’s still an accurate way to sum up England’s group opener. It really was a game of two halves. They played well, at a nice tempo, in the first, then took their foot off the gas after the break.
Overall the performance was encouraging, but they should have put the game to bed long before Russia’s equaliser. They would have learnt a harsh, yet important lesson about tournament football.
Roy may regret his choice of substitutions – I thought the game was crying out for Vardy to come on. It’s true that Harry Kane looked leggy, but Raheem Sterling was fortunate not to be hooked earlier, and Vardy would have been the perfect replacement. The full backs – Kyle Walker and Danny Rose – were excellent, as was man-of-the-match Wayne Rooney.
England corners driving me round the bend
It wasn’t a vintage display from Kane and taking corners isn’t doing him any favours. Yes, he’s got outstanding technique, but why would you take your number one goalscorer out of the penalty area in a set-piece situation? It’s not like we don’t have alternatives. Lots of players could do the job. Don’t tell me Adam Lallana can’t take a corner – he’s two footed and has a great delivery.