FIR­ING DRAGONS SHOULD SPUR ON ENG­LAND

If Eng­land don’t show the same fire they will strug­gle to beat Wales

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Star­ling @mike­js­tar­ling mike@7days.ae

Aaron Ram­sey be­lieves Wales have a bet­ter team than Eng­land. Not a bet­ter rugby team... a bet­ter foot­ball team - surely this can’t be true, can it?

It’s trou­bling for an English­man to ad­mit this, but I agree with the per­ox­ide-haired Welsh mid­field star (pic­tured, right).

When the draw was made for the Euro 2016 groups back in De­cem­ber I said that out of all the teams I did not want Eng­land to face Wales in the early stages. They are well or­gan­ised, hard to beat and as well as Ram­sey they also have the su­perb Gareth Bale in their side. No one will rel­ish tak­ing on the Red Dragons. Ear­lier this week Bale was asked if he thought any of the Eng­lish play­ers would make it into the Welsh side. With a smile the Real Madrid star said “none”.

I don’t fully agree with Bale on this one - be­cause Dele Alli and Harry Kane could get in any team - but the one thing that is true is that Bale and Ram­sey would cer­tainly get into the Eng­land side. No ques­tion.

Wales boss Chris Cole­man has built his squad around these two world-class play­ers. The other play­ers in the side may not all be house­hold names like the star duo, but just as teams like Ice­land and North­ern Ire­land have showed, as long as you work hard and play sim­ple foot­ball you can get re­sults.

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM

The other ma­jor at­tribute that Wales have is pas­sion. Not just on the pitch, but off it as well. Did you see the Welsh fans and play­ers sing their na­tional an­them be­fore the 2-1 open­ing game vic­tory over Slo­vakia?

Ev­ery­one knows that Welsh rugby fans are some of the most pas­sion­ate in sport, but the foot­ball fans are right up there af­ter the ren­di­tion of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Old Land of My Fathers). It was spinet­in­gling and this is what Eng­land should be fear­ing most. They won’t just be up against Bale and Ram­sey, they will also have to take on the pas­sion of the Welsh fans.

For Cole­man and Co this is like hav­ing a 12th man - and Eng­land must step up to the plate. Can Eng­land be as pas­sion­ate as their neigh­bours? They are go­ing to have to be if they want to get a re­sult in Lens to­day.

ENG­LAND MUST CHANGE THEIR TAC­TICS

Wales should line up with a 3-5-2 or 4-3-3 for­ma­tion with Bale as the fo­cal point in at­tack and Ram­sey and Jonny Wil­liams pro­vid­ing sup­port. Though Hal Rob­son-Kanu may be push­ing for a start af­ter his win­ner against Slo­vakia. With at­tack­ing mid­field­ers Ram­sey and Wil­liams play­ing as the sec­ond and third for­wards, this al­lows Wales’ for­ma­tion to be quite fluid if they need to adapt. Ram­sey or Wil­liams are able to drop back to make a mid­field five when de­fend­ing, but when they are on the at­tack the three at­tack­ing play­ers can move into space and make room in be­hind the de­fence. This is so hard to play against. Against Rus­sia this is ex­actly where Eng­land went wrong. Roy Hodg­son also picked a 4-3-3 for­ma­tion and to be fair the mid­field three of Eric Dier, Wayne Rooney and Alli worked well, but it’s in at­tack where I think Eng­land must make changes. Harry Kane is an ob­vi­ous first-choice pick - not for cor­ners though - and Adam Lal­lana is un­der-rated in his drift­ing role. The main prob­lem for me is Ra­heem Ster­ling.

For some­one who cost nearly Dhs255 mil­lion he should be set­ting the world alight.

But against Rus­sia his fi­nal prod­uct was dis­ap­point­ing to say the least. If Hodg­son wants to beat Wales then he must not try to play them at their own game.

Jamie Vardy should get his chance to shine in a front two with Kane and have Lal­lana sup­port­ing be­hind. The onus will then be on Alli and Rooney to pro­vide the am­mu­ni­tion from the mid­dle of the park.

And what about Bale? Should Eng­land man­mark him? Maybe Dier will get this job. But please, please don’t give the job to Chris Smalling or Gary Cahill be­cause Bale will tear these two apart in a one-on-one sit­u­a­tion.

SO, WHAT WILL THE SCORE BE?

It’s a must-win for Eng­land, but as I said back in De­cem­ber, I think Roy’s Boys will find it hard to beat Wales. The Welsh will be so up for the game and have noth­ing to lose now they have won their first match.

It will come down to who wants it most and with Bale lead­ing the charge I see the Welsh win­ning 1-0 or it fin­ish­ing in a tight draw. As an Eng­land fan I hope I’m proved wrong though.

DAN­GER MAN: Wales for­ward Gareth Bale will be lead­ing his coun­try’s charge in the big match against Eng­land to­day in Lens

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