England, bloody England. A time-honoured trait of being an English footballer is offering so much and yet delivering so little, and once again Three Lions supporters were not let down in this regard on Saturday evening.
After dominating Russia for 91 of the 93 minutes played, a sole lapse in concentration defensively enabled Berezutski the opportunity to loop a header over Joe Hart and into the net. It was like a boxer being ahead on all three judges’ scorecards before getting knocked out in the 12th round.
The upshot is that England could really do with three points here to ensure they don’t face a nervy encounter with Slovakia on Sunday. The problem is they take on a Wales side who will prove no pushovers whatsoever.
History dictates that England have the upper hand on the Welsh (certainly as far as football is concerned), with 66 wins from their 101 meetings dating back the best part of a century. But as we know, the beautiful game is not confined to the history books – and Wales will not fear their more illustrious opponents.
England vs Wales Preview
England’s absolute dominance of Russia can be traced back to the number of chances they created; they fired in 16 shots on goal, with eight on target. That was courtesy of a nice shape deployed by Roy Hodgson, with Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli dovetailing nicely in midfield, Adam Lallana cutting in from the right flank and causing havoc and the two rampaging full backs, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, looking deadly in the Russian half.
Was this Total Football? Hardly, but it’s probably as close as the English will get.
That late equaliser aside, the feeling in the England camp must be pretty good right now, and if Hodgson bites the bullet and removes the wasteful Raheem Sterling from his starting line-up, then English supporters will have players from one to eleven in which they can believe.
To assume that Wales will simply fold under the spotlight is lunacy, however. They bossed Slovakia, and really could have won by more than their 2-1 margin. Eight shots on target in itself is proof of that, and Chris Coleman has gotten his side playing in a way that suggests they will prove to be a real handful to England on the counter attack.
The last four England vs Wales meetings have been won by the Three Lions by scorelines of 2-0, 1-0, 2-0 and 1-0. By that logic, backing England to Win & Under 2.5 Goals looks smart at a huge price of 5/2 – and we certainly wouldn’t put you off.
The general consensus is that Euro 2016 is going to be a low-scoring tournament – 10 of the 12 matches in the first round of fixtures went under the 2.5 goal mark. We can expect that to increase as the requirement to force wins becomes more apparent, but even so when two local rivals meet it generally results in a low-scoring contest. With Under 2.5 Goals available at 4/5, punters have a great angle in for this match-up.
As far as the outright market is concerned, it would take a brave, patriotic and possibly foolish England supporter to back their side with complete confidence. Instead, a little flutter on Wales with an Asian handicap of +1.25 looks sensible – even if they lose by a one goal margin we’re in business!