Our writers debate how England’s crucial Euro 2016 Group B encounter with Wales on Thursday afternoon will pan out.
Should England change their line-up?
Matt: I think Roy Hodgson will be looking at trying to get Jamie Vardy into his frontline and in training this week there have been reports of Daniel Sturridge, Vardy and Marcus Rashford all being tried together in a three-pronged attack.
To be honest I don’t think picking the personnel will be the key factor against Wales. I think the mentality and gameplan set out by Hodgson will be the most important thing. England were not hopeless against Russia, far from it and the first half was probably one of the most impressive at the tournament so far. Had we managed to see that game out the vibe would have been totally different.
James: I don’t think England need to change a great deal. The performance against Russia was really encouraging and exactly the sort of tempo we want to see from our national side. If they play the same way again, they’ll surely have too much for Wales. Raheem Sterling for me looks the most vulnerable, but if you drop him for Vardy, then that’ll likely mean you’ll have to change the system.
If England were to bring in another striker, then Daniel Sturridge is the one who needs to start for me. Could he play behind the central striker though? I’m not so sure…
Zach: I don’t think much really needs to change with line-up. I felt the starting XI against Russia were very unlucky to come away with a draw as they dominated most of the game. I do agree with James if anything Sterling could be one for the drop. Maybe one thing I would like to see is Sturridge, Vardy and Kane thrust in together and see how that could work.
What can we expect from Wales?
Zach: Well they are certainly going to be up for it that’s for sure. There will be fire in their bellies and coming off a win their confidence will be sky high. I can’t see them changing their line-up from the Slovakia game to be honest. Wales will obviously be looking at their main man Gareth Bale to make a difference and could provide a handful for England’s defence. But I think overall England have a better complete squad of players to compete against Wales.
Matt: I think they will be unchanged and set out to play in the same manner as they did in the win over Slovakia. Craig Bellamy this week stated that it was the prefect scenario for Chris Coleman’s men: entering the game on the back of a win and being able to afford to play on the counter-attack. And that’s certainly what they will do as they look for some magic from Gareth Bale.
What Bellamy did get wrong was the fact that he said England cannot afford to draw. That’s not strictly true with four places up for grabs for the best third-placed teams. Granted a draw would not be ideal, but it would still leave England with a decent chance of progressing, as long as they beat Slovakia last up.
James: We can expect a really hard game, but I think man for man, England are far superior. Ashley Williams is a rock at the back and his battle with Harry Kane will be key. Wales will start full of confidence and that cross-field pass they used to such good affect against Slovakia will be a dangerous weapon. We’ll have to make sure we cut those out and our two full-backs – who were both excellent against Russia – choose carefully when to make their forays forward.
Incidentally, Wednesday this week marks 20 years to the day since England beat Scotland at Euro 96 – it’d be nice if we can take inspiration from that and show Wales who is boss. You can bet on this match at Ladbrokes. On this site you can consider the pros and cons of this bookmaker.
England v Wales prediction – and why?
Matt: England 2 Wales 0. I think England can at least repeat the performance they put in against Russia on Saturday and that I think will be good enough for England to earn three points. Keeping Bale quiet will be vital, but I expect Hodgson’s men to get on the front foot and push their two full-backs as far forward as possible.
James: I think England will win a tight game 1-0. I can see it being goalless at the break and England eventually making the breakthrough some time in the second half – possibly even from the penalty spot.
Zach: I’m going to go 1-0 England and I could even see Rooney being the scorer. It is going to be really close game but I felt it was different England we saw on Saturday and we were just unlucky to come away with a draw.
How will Group B finish?
James: England, Wales, Slovakia, Russia. Two tight wins for England to finish off the group…
Matt: England, Wales, Russia, Slovakia. I think Wales will make it through second with England grabbing two wins from their last two games.
Zach: England, Wales, Slovakia, Russia. I agree with James and Matt, England to win their last two group games.
Should England change their line-up? What are you expecting the system to be? Let us know your thoughts…