England proved they have passion and commitment – but they got out of jail this afternoon in the 2-1 win over Wales.
Roy Hodgson was forced to throw caution to the wind by bringing on three strikers after they went in 1-0 down at half-time to a Gareth Bale goal. But the gamble paid off in spades for the England manager.
The substitutions had an immediate impact on the pattern of the game. Harry Kane was having a tough time of it, but by bringing on Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy and Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge, Roy Hodgson changed the flow of the game. This allowed the Three Lions to take the game to the Welsh a lot more in the second half – and we were rewarded with two goals from two strikers.
And this is exactly what I said after the Russian game about having your strikers in the box where they’re needed and not our wide or taking corners. Both of England’s goals were scored by goal-poachers doing what they do best – hunting down chances in the penalty area.
Personally, I’d start Jamie Vardy now instead of Harry Kane in the final group game against Slovakia on Monday night. Things haven’t worked out right for Kane just yet, but Vardy looked lively and will be full of confidence going into the final group game.
It was all a little frenetic and erratic at times but a lot of that can be put down to the derby-type atmosphere in Lens.
This is a young, inexperienced England side in many ways and it was always likely that proving the doubters wrong about their ‘passion’ would be an over-riding emotion in a game like this.
I would have liked to see a lot more controlled possession from England – but they kept probing the Welsh defence and the pressure told in the end. We’ll need to be careful though against more experienced tournament sides and learn to use more finesse to open up defences as we hopefully progress towards the business end of Euro 2016.
We top Group B now and are in the driving seat to make a life a lot easier for ourselves if we pick up another three points against Slovakia.
I wouldn’t necessarily start with the side that finished against Wales because it will be a different test against Jan Kozack’s side. We don’t need a result the way we did today – particularly after falling a goal behind, so can return to concentrating on our performance ahead of tougher tests coming up.
I’d still start Adam Lallana unless Roy Hodgson decides to make wholesale changes and there may also be an opportunity to give Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford more game too. He looks to be taking everything in his stride and the more he can play now the better it will be for him and the team for the games that lie ahead.
England are off the hook for now and can use Monday’s game to fine tune a more measured approach that was working well against Russia. Well until the 92nd minute anyway.