There’s plenty of nostalgia for the old Home Nations tournaments, but for high-stakes and excitement, those games had nothing on the prospect of two British nations coming head-to-head at a European Championship.
And Dragons’ devotees and Three Lions fanatics finally have their wish, with these two meeting on the big stage for the first time. So, what can fans on either side of the Severn Bridge expect to see tomorrow night?
Expect a late goal
England have enjoyed a fair amount of joy and despair as a result of late strikes in recent months. They’ve scored beyond the 80-minute mark in three of their last six games, but were on the other end of a last-gasp goal in the 1-1 draw against Russia.
Wales have seen even more net-bulgers in the closing stages, with goals occurring in the final 10 minutes in six of their last seven games.
That means there looks to be plenty of value in backing England to score beyond the 80-minute mark in Lens at 5/4, while Welsh fans will likely be more tempted by the possibility of an injury-time winner from their boys at 33/1.
England will have most of the ball – and the chances
Hodgson’s men finished Euro 2016 qualification as the only side with maximum points, and not only did they get the victories, they dominated those games.
In nine of the 10 games en route to France, the Three Lions had more shots and more possession than their opponents, chalking up an impressive average total of 63 per cent possession. That dominance of play could be a problem for Wales, who’ve struggled of late against ball-playing sides like Bosnia and Netherlands.
We could well see Wales’ midfield stretched trying to keep up with England’s slick passing football – but there’s one area where they may well best them.
Wales are deadly from free-kicks
We saw Wales score from free-kicks time and time again in qualifying. Gareth Bale’s superb free-kicks away at Israel and Andorra will live long in the memory, but David Cotterill’s curler which wrongfooted the Cyprus’ keeper showed that it’s not just the Real Madrid man who knows the way to goal from a set-piece.
They’re not too shabby from corners either, as Emyr Hughes’ deft goal from Joe Allen’s corner showed. And with the aerial prowess of James Collins and Simon Church added to the mix, there are plenty of ways the men in red can bamboozle their neighbours from dead-ball situations.
Three Lions’ pace could run Dragons ragged
Pity the Welsh defence, who may well have to contend with the electric pace of Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane tomorrow afternoon – amply provided for by the service of Wayne Rooney, who was England’s best performer against Russia.
The Dragons backline boasts a good deal of experience, but the likes of Collins and Ashley Williams could well find themselves wheezing away with the energetic England frontline breezing past them.
With many predicting the Premier League’s top two English scorers in 2015-16 will start together, it’s 6/1 that both Kane and Vardy score against the Welsh, with 25/1 for those two and a certain Mr. Rooney to net.
Welsh trio are linking up superbly
One of the most pleasing factors for Chris Coleman as his side beat Slovakia will surely have been the understanding building between Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Hal Robson-Kanu.
‘BRR-K’ may not have quite the same ring to it as Barcelona’s ‘MSN’ forward line, but on the field, this trio are building a very slick partnership. Indeed, the Gunners star looked at his best when linking up with the substitute against Slovakia.
And Wales’ attacking understanding has also seen Ramsey and Bale having set one another up for goals time and again during the past few years. Could that dynamic trio be England’s undoing again?
Welsh fans who believe so can back both Bale and Robson-Kanu to score against England in Lens at 20/1.
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