England and Wales meeting at the World Cup has been spoken about since the draw. Unfortunately, there won’t be as much needle as had been speculated due to the group situation. England only have four points, but Wales require a four goal swing to move above their neighbours. It seems unlikely they will manage that. If they do, it will be one of the greatest World Cup stories of all time.
It is expected that England will make the knockout stages, unless a disaster happens on Tuesday night. However, if they are to be contenders to go deep in the competition, they will need to perform much better than they did against USA. They failed to dominate the game and were lucky to come away with a point. There have been calls for Phil Foden and Trent Alexander-Arnold to get more game time. Due to the strong group position and the potential for fatigue, Gareth Southgate is likely to rotate here. It should be a chance for the squad players to stake their claim for a bigger role in the knockout rounds.
It has been a great period for Welsh football. Although they have done excellently to qualify for three tournaments over the last six years, it feels like we are reaching the end of this cycle. Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have been the stats of this generation. Neither player has looked capable of impacting games over 90 minutes in Qatar. This could be the end of their international careers. A win over England at a World Cup would be a nice way to go out. Three points would give them a chance of qualification, but it would rely on a four goal swing or a draw in the other game in the group.
England have now had 12 goalless draws in the World Cup. No country has had more.
Wayne Hennessey became only the third goalkeeper to receive a red card at a World Cup.
There could be some temptation to rest Harry Kane on Tuesday. He looked fatigued on Friday night and there are some concerns that his ankle is limiting him on the pitch. However, he is more likely to start in the hope that he can open his goal scoring account in Qatar. If the game can be won early, he can be brought off around the 60 minute mark to give him some rest. The captain, he will want to start and help England to a win over Wales. Due to the situation for Wales, they are going to have to be positive against England and commit to an attacking strategy. That should play into England’s hands, as there will be space for their attacking players to operate. Kane is the main goal threat and the playmaker in the final third. His quality on the ball often leads to through balls into the quicker wide players. It could be the perfect game for him to find some rhythm.
This could very likely be Bale’s last game for Wales. He hasn’t looked at his best at this tournament. Although he had a great moment in the opening match against USA scoring at a World Cup, his overall influence has been lacking. At times, Wales’ plan has looked like give the ball to Bale and hope that he produces a moment of quality. Unfortunately he isn’t that player any more. In hindsight, Rob Page may wish he had utilised Bale differently. The huge work load has caused issues as he hasn’t been able to fully commit himself, as he protects his body. That said, he will be motivated to beat England, even if that won’t lead to qualification. This is his chance to right the wrong from 2016, when Wales lost to England in the group. Wales went deeper in the competition, but that defeat would have stung.
James Maddison is back training and could feature for the first time in Qatar. Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips are fitter than before. Both will be in contention to start.
Wayne Hennessey is suspended, which means that Danny Ward will come into the team. Brennan Johnson and Dan James will both be pushing for starts.
This Welsh team doesn’t look good enough to cause real problems for England. In hindsight, they will be seen as the weakest of the four teams in Group B. England will need to improve and show a much better performance than the one against USA. I would expect that to happen. It should be a comfortable evening for England and inject some confidence before the knockout rounds
England 3-0 Wales