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England's Lallana excited about 'special' game

Adam Lallana is relishing coming up against so many familiar faces in the Wales side on Thursday, but insists it is not just Gareth Bale who can cause England problems.

England's Lallana excited about 'special' game
England's Lallana excited about 'special' game ©Panoramic

It was a journalist from the Netherlands who asked Adam Lallana to put into words the special meaning of the footballing rivalry between England and Wales. 

It is not an easy one to answer in a soundbite or two – not least for a footballer not even born when the last annual British Home Championship, a four-team event incorporating England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, concluded in May 1984.

That was the month that Wales beat England last, prevailing 1-0 through a goal from a debutant called Mark Hughes.

For Lallana, not surprisingly, the human dimension means more than the historical backdrop as he explained in his answer to his Dutch inquisitor.

"It is a special game because a lot of the players know each other from club football, there is a lot riding there," the attacking midfielder said. 

There will be ten England players reacquainted with current club colleagues in Lens on Thursday, including Lallana himself who could come up against two Liverpool team-mates in the Wales camp – midfielder Joe Allen and goalkeeper Danny Ward.

"I was speaking to them last week but I'm not too sure I will be speaking to them before the game!" the 28-year-old said. "There is something special about the game – there is a British feel to the match that will be good for the spectator and for the neutral watching."

Of course, Lallana will also face Gareth Bale, once a team-mate at Southampton where Bale was a skinny teenaged left-back taking his first steps in the professional ranks. Not surprisingly, Bale was the focus of a good number of the questions directed Lallana's way after training on Wednesday.

Why England can still dream

"I played with Gareth growing up and he always had great ability from a young age," he said of the Real Madrid forward. "It is a credit to himself how he has developed his game, and now he is at the top. 

"He is a good friend and a very good player," added Lallana, "but they have got some other good players like Joe Allen, who I've had the pleasure of playing with. He is a top-quality player and I believe he got the man of the match the other day. Aaron Ramsey is another one so we can't be naïve and all focus on Gareth."

Jack Wilshere on England

As for England, Lallana let slip how he felt about Saturday's 1-1 draw with Russia when saying he was quickly over "the disappointment of losing" but he rightly pointed to the positives of a display that should have yielded a victory.

"You saw how we started the match – our intent, our focus – and there are just a couple of things we need to sharpen up, like being a bit more ruthless."

This last improvement applies to Lallana as much as anyone given he spurned two excellent first-half opportunities. The consequence is England trail Wales by two points in Group B and how Wales would love to still be looking down on Roy Hodgson's side on Thursday night. 

Yet England, Lallana stressed, are well accustomed to teams wanting their scalp – and have the players to handle the pressure. "We are used to playing with pressure week in, week out – a lot of us thrive on it and hopefully that will give us the edge."