Hot topic: British derby day #ENGWAL
Thursday, 16 June 2016
As England play Wales for the first time in a major final tournament, Paul Saffer is joined by our match reporting team of Tom Kell, Simon Hart and Mark Pitman to debate the game.
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Paul Saffer (@UEFAcomPaulS): England and Wales have played more than 100 times but never at a major tournament, so ahead of today's game in Lens I have convened our reporting team for the match, Tom Kell, Simon Hart and Mark Pitman.
Thanks for joining us. First off, a question for all three of you – speaking personally, what does the England v Wales game mean?
Mark Pitman (Wales team reporter, @UEFAcomMPitman): It's something you grow up with, regardless of the sport; it's instilled in you at an early age that you want Wales to beat England. This is a special tournament for Wales after 58 years, so to draw England is just another factor to add to the overall occasion.
Tom Kell (match reporter, @UEFAcomTomK):I'm just looking forward to it, more than anything. It's a 'derby', yes, and the players will all know each other from domestic football, so I don't think there's any avoiding the fact it may have a little extra edge. What's great, though, is that Wales won their opener and England didn't – the game's significance to the group tops everything else.
Simon Hart (England team reporter, @UEFAcomSimonH): I remember the old British Home Championship which each year pitted the four British footballing nations against each other. That ended in 1984 so when the teams do play these days, it's not so common and therefore has a novelty factor and an excitement.
Paul: I remember Wales beating England in that last year too ... Mark, how has the Wales camp been since that Slovakia win? It was a great performance and a great atmosphere from the fans?
Mark: The atmosphere in the camp has been incredible. There were a few nerves before the Slovakia match as Wales were heading into the unknown to a certain extent, but having performed on the biggest stage as they know they can perform, it's given everyone a huge boost. There is a real collective bond between the players, the fans and the press as a result.
Paul: Did the players expect quite the support they got in Bordeaux?
Mark: I think they knew it would be special, but not quite to the extent it was. It's fairly quiet at the team base so they haven't really seen the thousands of fans that have made the trip; it was an eye-opener for the team when they got to Bordeaux.
Paul: Sure it will be the same in Lens too ... Simon, what has been the mood after the Russia draw? Obviously not the result that was wanted, but a decent performance.
Simon: I spoke to Eric Dier yesterday evening in Chantilly and he was speaking about how well the team performed and how good he felt out on the pitch. Equally, though, I heard Adam Lallana in his presser yesterday use the word "defeat" – which was telling as England's good work was ultimately not enough. The general feeling is they know they have to be more ruthless as Russia were there for the taking.
Paul: It seems to be a bit of a habit for England to start tournaments like that, no matter who is in the squad. What have England players been saying about Wales, obviously a team they know very well even if they don't meet regularly these days?
Simon: Jack Wilshere is the only player who has actually said anything interesting about Wales – and he had his tongue in his cheek when he said the Welsh didn't like the English and the feeling was probably mutual, or words to that effect. The rest of the players, though, have been playing a very straight bat and playing down the whole 'derby' factor, describing it as just another big game.
Paul: I think it's inevitable anything Wilshere or Gareth Bale say will be made into a "war of words" ...
Mark: Bale and Aaron Ramsey were quite bullish in their press conference yesterday. They were making light of Wilshere's quotes and the press hype that has been made of Bale's earlier comments about Wales having more pride and passion.
Tom: Looking at it from outside either team camp, and with a cold heart, I don't think any of this should matter – Wales have some superb individuals but England have more cumulative talent in their squad and that should be enough. Whether it will be as straightforward as that is another matter, though.
Mark: I think the dynamic of the game has changed because of the opening results. There's a lot more pressure on England now; it isn't a 'must-win' match for Wales, although they would dearly love to.
Paul: Have the contrasting opening results changed your view of the game at all, Tom? Maybe giving Wales more of a chance?
Tom:I predicted a Wales win against Slovakia in the first edition of the official UEFA EURO 2016 podcast – an excellent listen, might I add – last week. They have genuine quality, of that there is no doubt. But England should be superior as a team. I know it's a simplistic perspective, and pressure, permutations and passion all have a role to play, but if Roy Hodgson's team turn up and somehow ignore all that I really do think they should be too good.
Paul: Mark, Simon ... are you expecting any changes to the teams? In goal perhaps, Mark – or in attack, Simon?
Mark: I would expect Wayne Hennessey to start, and I wouldn't rule out a return to the starting XI for Joe Ledley and Hal Robson-Kanu either. I think Wales will make changes despite the win over Slovakia to counter England's strengths.
Simon: With England, the two players whose starting roles have been questioned are Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. Sterling's end product was disappointing against Russia and this raises the possibility he might be replaced on the left side of the front line, perhaps by Jamie Vardy.
Alternately, Kane's lack of goal threat in Marseille has led some to call for Daniel Sturridge's inclusion. He has the trickery and quick feet which would ask a different kind of question of the Wales defence. All that said, though, England's performance was pretty good against Russia, so I wouldn't expect too many changes, if any.
Tom: Paul, if I can intervene briefly. Simon, any insight into the reasoning behind Roy Hodgson picking a squad with only one genuine winger but then fielding a starting XI against Russia that required two wide men? I was convinced the 23 he selected for the tournament would mean he'd keep things narrow.
Paul: House of Commons style, you can choose if you accept the intervention, Simon.
Simon: Hodgson seemed to change his thinking a little after the disappointing friendly display against Portugal on 2 June, when he shoehorned three attackers into the same starting XI – Rooney, Kane, Vardy – and it didn't work.
It is not unusual for an England manager to switch strategies during a tournament though – Bobby Robson switched to a back three at his players' behest at Italia '90 and that didn't work out badly. As for the width, it is a good question but what we saw on Saturday is that it's the full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose who will give England width in this tournament ... and that's a common trend now in European football.
Paul: Using full-backs as the wide attackers is certainly what Spain did to stretch out the Czechs.
Mark: Very similar situation with Wales using Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor as attacking wing-backs when in possession and dropping into a back five when defending. No natural wide outlet other than those two.
Paul: And we've barely mentioned Bale, which just shows how Wales proved they were not a one-man team on Saturday. Anyway, sorry to do this guys: but score predictions?
Mark: I'm going for a 1-1 draw.
Tom: 2-1 England
Simon: I'm half tempted to go with a draw too but will stick my neck out and say 2-1 England as well.
Paul: For some reason, 0-0 would not surprise me. But I'm going to plump for 3-3. Anyway, thanks a lot and enjoy the game up there in Lens. Follow the build-up with the three of them from Lens in our live match blog and join the #EURO2016 conversation with #ENGWAL