Off field squabbles over national pride and passion have dominated the buildup to England and Wales’ crucial Group B bout, with all manner of parties wading in with pre-match jibes over irrelevant issues that are impossible to gauge.
On the field, the general consensus seems to think the Three Lions’ hopes of recording an imperative win hinge upon their ability to stop Gareth Bale, a prime culprit in the pre-match mudslinging.
The Real Madrid superstar’s free kick opened the scoring for Chris Coleman’s men in their 2-1 win over Slovakia last time out, a result that saw them establish an early advantage in the race to reach the knockout stages.
After England could only draw 1-1 with Russia, the Dragons sit in pool B’s box seat and probably now require just a point from their remaining two matches to be assured of a spot in the last 16.
On the cusp of completing what would be a remarkable achievement, it’s conceivable the underdogs will approach the game with caution, looking to land that draw at the earliest possible opportunity.
But why not go for all three when England’s preoccupation with Bale will enable the less-celebrated weapons in Wales’ artillery to dole out some significant damage to their British brethren’s hopes of progress?
Win, Lose or Draw?
In qualification for this competition, the Welsh rearguard leaked just four goals, one more than the total conceded by England.
Since then, it seems the Three Lions’ once-solid backline has softened, with just two clean sheets managed in the subsequent matches that followed the conclusion of the qualifying campaign (both of which came with caveats of favourable mitigating factors too).
Wales should be more than capable of breaching this porous defence.
Even when rocket launcher Bale hasn’t been able to blow their foes away, handguns Aaron Ramsey and Hal Robson-Kanu have proved capable scoring-burden sharers; the latter obviously got the winner against Slovakia, while his Arsenal counterpart won his country six points in qualifying through scoring deadlock breaking goals in wins-to-nil.
In addition to their much-discussed defensive frailties, England’s spurning of countless chances against the Russians suggests that, despite having five strikers in the ranks, they’re far from fully-functioning in the final third at the minute too.
Plundering four points from Belgium in qualifying is testament to Wales’ ability to compete with international football’s elite and doubting their capacity to exploit their next opponent’s flaws at both ends of the field is a sure-fire way to lose the contents of your wallet.
Recommended bet: Wales to win @ 11/2
England required 15 chances to net one goal against Russia, while Wales fashioned just eight from open play in their win over Slovakia.
One side needs to sharpen their finishing skills, while the other would benefit from a workshop on creativity. Neither issue is conducive to a goal-filled game.
In total, seven of Wales’ last ten have fallen short of the three-strike threshold and England are on a two-match unders streak themselves.
Recommended bet: Under 2.5 goals @ 4/5
Who’s Going To Score?
As stated, Ramsey has a habit of scoring vital goals for his country and rates at an appetising 9/2 to notch at any point in Lens.
For England, a centre-back (by trade) has found the net in each of their last three outings (Eric Dier did technically find a net against Australia, even if it was his own).
Dier is 5/1 to register in favour of the Three Lions’ cause for the second match in succession at any time, while those he’ll be shielding – Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill – can be backed to do the same at 8/1 and 10/1 respectively.
A late goal is near-guaranteed in Lens, with at least one strike being registered after the 75th-minute in seven of the previous nine matches to involve Wales. The same applies to six of the last eight involving England.