Neville Southall: Wales must play with their heads and not their hearts against England

The goalkeeping legend on why points matter more than pride in the Group B showdown

Nevilee Southall Euro 2016

Wales did brilliantly to beat Slovakia on Saturday but the last thing they need now is to lose themselves in derby-type hype against England.

The complexion of this fixture changed completely when Russia got their last-gasp equaliser on Saturday night – and for once Wales are in the driving seat.

But it’s important we don’t get caught up in the potential of possibly eliminating England at a major tournament and play with our heads – and not just our hearts.

Chris Coleman’s side probably only need a point to advance to the second phase. I’d much sooner get that result now instead of empty plaudits about how well we played against Roy Hodgson’s side but were unlucky to lose.

Honestly, I don’t give a sh*t if we don’t beat England on Thursday as long as we get out of Group B.

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We know the strengths and weaknesses of the English players and they know ours – so let’s get our game plan right and not get dragged into a battle.

Wales can’t afford to let the occasion get to them and just start steaming in. England have the players to really hurt us if we start to leave gaps all over the pitch chasing balls like head-less chickens.

The Dragons must show patience and not be panicked into a win-at-any-cost mentality as that could play right into England’s hands.

We need to keep the game tight for as long as possible to make sure Three Lions’ manager Roy Hodgson has some tough decisions to make the longer the game goes on. They need three points. Wales don’t.

Pick your punches

England can have all the possession they want in front of us, that doesn’t win you matches. I’ve been listening to people talking about Everton’s ‘possession football’ all season – but the Toffees have won sod all.

We can afford to keep it tight and let England play in front of us. They’re more likely to get jittery if the game remains dead-locked. Wales need to be like a boxer picking his punches, rather than swinging wildly, hoping to deliver a knock-out blow.

If you look at how Germany beat the Ukraine on Sunday night, you could see how the World Champions had a game plan from the start and stuck to it.

They knew they would get a chance to score at some stage and when it came along they took it. Their second goal only came late on as the Ukraine gambled all-out on an equaliser. They had to do it – but they paid the price.

This is why the Germans are so good at tournaments. They have a strategy and they stick to it.


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It’s a positive for Wales that Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Ledley all got game time against Slovakia. They hadn’t played much competitive football in the last month and should improve again.

I fancy Joe Ledley to start the game this time and also Coleman to start the goal-scoring Hal Robson-Kanu up front to make the spine of the team more solid.

There’s a lot of talk that Jamie Vardy might start for England having not got a run against Russia. I’d be surprised if he starts on Thursday but delighted if he did. If Wales keep it tight than I don’t think this will suit the Leicester City front-man.

He’s not going to have the space to run into behind the Welsh back four and isn’t as effective as some of England’s other options up front with his back to goal.

But that’s for Roy Hodgson & Co. to worry about. Let’s hope we just concentrate on our performance and get out of the group. We’re half-way there.

What do you think?