England v Wales, Thursday June 16
Lens, Live on BBC, 2pm
England and Wales will face each other on Thursday in Lens (2pm, BBC 1) in the second round of crucial Group B matches. Wales have already put themselves in pole position in Group B and know that should they take anything from this game that qualification is all but guaranteed.
England – the story so far
England will feel bitterly disappointed to have come away from their opening match against Russia with anything less than 3 points, but a stoppage-time equaliser from Vasili Berezutski consigned Roy’s men to a draw in Marseilles. Up until that point England had completely controlled the match, and were left ruing wayward finishing and their inability to get the second goal, which would surely have made the game safe.
Roy Hodgson has selection headaches ahead of the Wales game. Raheem Sterling didn’t have his best game, Jack Wilshere is pushing hard for a starting place, and up front Harry Kane couldn’t even take a decent corner, let alone test the goalkeeper – Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge will both have an eye on a starting place.
Anything less than a win and England will find themselves in trouble in Group B, but they do have an excellent record against the Welsh – unbeaten since 1984. They also know the opposition inside out and (Gareth Bale aside) they should feel that player-for-player they are stronger than their counterparts.
Wales – the story so far
Wales got off to a dream start on Saturday when they defeated Slovakia 2-1 in Bordeaux, but they know that the game against England will provide a sterner test. Any side who has Gareth Bale in the line-up has a chance, and Wales will be an obvious threat from any dead ball situation – either a direct shot, or with quality delivery into the England box for the Welsh players to attack – in qualification they took the highest percentage of headed shots of any qualifier with 25.4%.
The Wales side will at least be familiar with their English counterparts and they have the massive comfort of knowing that a draw for them is a fantastic result – it’s England who have to chase the game and the longer it goes on, the more England will need to chase the victory and the more open the game will become for Wales to score on the break.
On paper England should win this comfortably, but on paper England should comfortably have beaten Russia too. Wales will take great heart from the way the Russians were able to punish England late on, and with 3 points already in the bag they should approach the game with little fear. However I feel that England will have too much for Wales, and their performances in previous crunch matches against the home nations – the 3-1 victory against Scotland in Nov 2014 the two Euro qualifying matches vs Wales in 2011 – demonstrate that they normally have the edge when it comes to matches against familiar opposition.
- Both teams to score and over 2.5 goals @
- England to win by exactly 2 goals @
- England to win 3-1 @
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