FIRING DRAGONS SHOULD SPUR ON ENGLAND
If England don’t show the same fire they will struggle to beat Wales
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