EURO 2016 MATCHDAY 2: ARE THE WELSH REALLY THAT GOOD AT FOOTBALL?
Not since 1958 have Wales competed in a major international tournament. 58 years on since they controversially qualified for a World Cup when they finished second in a group to Czechoslovakia (who were disqualified due to growing global political tensions) there have been tensions closer to home resulting from a certain Real Madrid Galactico’s press conference ramblings.
There is no doubting Gareth Bale’s footballing credentials as one of the best talents in the world and he was possibly at least half joking when he stated that not one England player would get in to the Wales team, but his light hearted comments have caused a stir in the media and have certainly given us some time to ponder and given the press something to pester Roy Hodgson with.
Wales certainly got off to a better start than England in their first Euro 2016 group game with a solid if not spectacular win over Slovakia who also earned their first win of the tournament over a hapless Russia side on Wednesday. Solid is a word that may have been used to describe England’s opening game against Russia last weekend until the unthinkable happened in the dying seconds of the game. The result of these last minute defensive jitters is the usual England fan pessimism mixed with the odd dash of ye olde optimism which could be result in a cocktail that is more akin to a Dark and Stormy than a Screaming Orgasm.
England have won a world cup since Wales last competed in a tournament of the magnitude of France Euro 2016 but with the fans of both British sides demanding nothing less than a victory – something has to give. England have won all four of their recent competitive games against their rivals which includes two World Cup and two European Championship qualifiers that date back to 2004.
Statistics almost go out of the window with the nature of this football match and with the pride of two nations (that couldn’t sit closer in geographical terms) at stake the game is set up perfectly for the neutrals.
The star player on the pitch in the England Vs. Wales fixture will of course be Gareth Bale who ironically is the player who ignited this discussion in the first place and he is certainly one player who would walk straight in to the England team, but are the Welsh really that good at football – or would each and every one of their players keep an Englishman out if they were Welsh (you know what we mean)?
THE ENGLISH PLAYERS THAT MIGHT NOT MAKE THE WELSH TEAM
With all but two of the Welsh team that is expected to start against England playing either in the Premier League or the Spanish Primera League there is certainly a fair amount of pedigree.
Joe Hart is at the top of his game for club and country and England are fairly well blessed in this department. Wayne Hennesey is a good choice for Wales but I think most Welsh fans would take Joe Hart and after plying much of his trade in Shrewsbury in his early days he is probably not too unfamiliar with the Welsh.
The England defensive set up has been much maligned but their full backs are far more likely to have freedom to attack than the Welsh. That being said, the Welsh have plenty of options defensively and Ashley Williams and Ben Davies are standout players who could keep out English defenders. Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling could have legitimate concerns over getting in this Welsh side.
The central midfield areas are pretty competitive and this could be a key battle in the winning of this game. Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey are the two players in the Welsh team that would pose a serious question to the likes of Eric Dier, Dele Alli Adam Lallana and Wayne Rooney – head any further in to the squad and with the exception of Jack Wilshere (who is still searching for full fitness) and it is hard to pick many players who would keep Ramsey and Allen (or the Welsh Pirlo as he has been affectionately nicknamed) at bay.
The front men for England are some of the best that have been at their disposal at any time. Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney still need to prove they can perform in a major competition but their recent form is excellent and any of them would force their way past Reading’s Robson-Kanu. That being said – Kanu is currently ahead of all of them in goals scored in the tournament but how many of you have him in your fantasy football team.
So whether Gareth Bale was being 50% serious or not, there is probably around 50% truth in his statement. History shows that England should win and most likely without conceding a goal – but stats and history count for little in a game of this magnitude. I know one thing – I will be putting Gareth Bale in my Premier Punt singles game.