Euro 2016: England v Wales - Expert v Expert Preview


Saturday brought differing emotions for local rivals England and Wales, who meet in Lens on Thursday afternoon for arguably the most anticipated group stage match at Euro 2016.

England’s concession of a stoppage-time goal to Russia which turned three points into one on Saturday has thrown their hopes into disarray, whilst Wales are still basking in the glory of their win over Slovakia in their first major tournament match in 58 years.

Football writer and tactical mastermind Jonathan Wilson gives his view on the Three Lions, whilst sports writer Mark Jones has the lowdown on Wales.

 

TEAM NEWS

Jonathan Wilson on England: All 23 England players trained on Wednesday, which means Roy Hodgson can make his selection based entirely on tactical grounds. The performance of Adam Lallana on the right against Russia and the probability of Wales using a back three means the 4-3-3 will probably be retained.

Raheem Sterling’s place on the left may be in question after his disappointing second half, with an argument to move Wayne Rooney out to that flank and use a more natural midfielder alongside Eric Dier and Dele Alli.

Jack Wilshere seems a Hodgson favourite and came on for Rooney against Russia but Jordan Henderson may offer greater energy and defensive discipline. 

FBL-EURO-2016-MATCH4-ENG-RUS : News Photo

Mark Jones on Wales: Now the euphoria of the win over Slovakia has died down a little, Chris Coleman faces three selection issues surrounding players who weren’t expected to start that game.

Young goalkeeper Danny Ward did well when thrown in for just his third cap in Bordeaux, while Dave Edwards was solid in midfield and Jonny Williams buzzed around the pitch and won the free-kick from which Gareth Bale fired in the opening goal.

Wayne Hennessey, Joe Ledley and national hero Hal Robson-Kanu should, in theory, all come in for them, but Coleman probably won’t risk all three.

 

FORM

Wilson: Although there was frustration at the concession of a late equaliser, England played very well for long periods against Russia, probably their best performance in a tournament game since Euro 2004.

There were just two problems, both fundamental: firstly a failure to create and convert chances despite domination, and secondly all the old worries about the defending were reawakened. In retrospect, England probably shouldn’t have dropped so deep late on.

Jones: After so many near misses and so much heartbreak down the years, it is impossible to overstate just what the win over Slovakia meant to Welsh fans of every generation, old and young.

The emotional victory has lifted a huge amount of pressure off this clash with England, which has gone from being seen as the key match in the group to something of a free hit for Coleman’s side.

This has actually become fun, a feeling that England would surely long for.

 

KEY MAN

Wilson: Almost unnoticed was Harry Kane’s performance against Russia. He did not play badly, exactly, but there was a sense of weariness about him and it was a slight surprise he was not substituted late on.

If England are to break down Wales, they could do with him remaining his sharpness. Then there’s the oddity of him taking corners. Hodgson and his coaching staff, of course, see him in training when presumably he excels with his delivery but it does seem a little strange that the best poacher in the starting line-up against Russia wasn’t in the box. 

Wales v Slovakia - Group B: UEFA Euro 2016 : News Photo

Jones: It would be easy to say Bale again, but the key to wrestling back control of the Slovakia match was the tireless performance of Joe Allen, who was voted as UEFA’s man of the match.

The Liverpool midfielder is something of a social media hit largely due to some unhelpful comments from Brendan Rodgers four years ago, but regardless of comparisons he has grown into a vital performer in this Welsh side, and he’ll need to be at his best to stop Wayne Rooney from getting on the ball and trying to make England tick.

 

SURE THING

Wilson: This feels like a game of England dominating possession and Wales resisting. Wales may not give up goals but in such circumstances they will surely give up corners, so even with Wales having a +3 handicap, England to have more corners at 1.83 looks good value. 

Jones: We’ve seen what can happen to England when they are forced to try and break teams down, and it would be no surprise if Wales followed Russia’s lead and sat deep, only with the added threat of Bale on the counter.

If they do, I can see England getting more than a little frustrated, and with likes of Rooney and Eric Dier around I quite like the look of England to have the most cards at 3.30.

Wales had no bookings against Slovakia, who picked up five.

 

LONG SHOT

England Media Access : News Photo

Wilson: I’m still tempted by a repeat of the Portugal friendly, England battering away and finally breaking through with a header from a set-play. Chris Smalling to get the winner in a 1-0 England win is 111.0

Jones: Oh, go on then. Bale to score a free-kick at 15.00.

 

SCORE PREDICTION

Wilson: England 1-0 Wales at 5.80 

Jones: England 1-1 Wales at 7.50

 

#LuckIsNoCoincidence