Today is a big day for England and Wales.
I have loved the build up to this game – the tension created by not only the fans but the players as well.
Gareth Bale has teased the press and the English players, saying he wouldn’t pick one of the English players to play in the Wales national team with a cheeky smile.
We all know it’s a Joke because most of the Wales players are active in the Premier League. Some of the players wouldn’t mind using this game to get noticed by bigger teams, joining Ramsey at Arsenal or even Bale at Madrid.
It says more about the confidence of a player that has just won the Champions League and his opening game of the tournament. Bale is of course the main focus of his nation and he handles it incredibly well. He’s so relaxed but when the game starts he’ll do everything he can to get one over on his former Premier League colleagues.
I’ve played with and against a number of Wales players and they did get stick in the dressing room when their country failed to qualify for the big tournaments. It’s the first time they have qualified for the EUROS in 58 years so now is a great time for the players and fans.
They know they are the underdogs in today’s clash, and England are going in with a must-win attitude. That’s why it’s a big one. Even if Wales lose, the ball is still in their court going into their final game against Russia, but if England lose, qualification will be out of their hands.
The pressure is on England, especially now that only the home grown talent of both nations is on show, without the influence of foreign players like in the Premier League. We will get a chance to see what level both nations are really at.
Tactically I see England having a lot more possession but the key will be what they do with that. Neither team has any secrets. We know Wales will sit back and use the pace of Bale and the intelligence of Ramsey to hit England on the counter-attack. If Wales use the same tactics, utilising two wingbacks, they will have to be careful about how much space they leave exposed, and make sure the wingbacks support the back three.
If the flanks are well covered by both teams it will come down to who has the intelligence of receiving the ball between the midfield and the defensive line. It will be a tough battle from the beginning, but space will open up as the game progresses.
On paper I would have to put my bet on England without a doubt as their team has way more talent. But Wales will feel less pressure and I expect them to come out to surprise England.