Gary Speed’s first competitive game in charge of Wales will provide an immediate chance for him to go down in Welsh managerial folklore. The locals will love nothing more than getting one over on their English counterparts and after the rugby team couldn’t send the English back over the border with their tails between their legs, it falls to Speed’s men to right the wrongs. The big question is can they actually pull off the unthinkable and beat the English?
The last two competitive meetings between the sides were in qualifying games for the 2006 World Cup. On those occasions England came out on top, winning 1-0 in Wales and 2-0 at Old Trafford. Form and history certainly are not on the Welsh side, but this is a derby after all. Wales have won just three of their last nine home games and have so far lost all three of their European Championship qualifiers. The odds were stacked even higher against them when Gareth Bale was ruled out through injury on Thursday, just a day after declaring himself fit to line up on Saturday afternoon. A full house at the Millennium Stadium will do no harm to Welsh chances, and after Gary Speed ordered the whole side to learn the national anthem, expect passions to be running high well before kick-off. The inclusion of Aaron Ramsey as captain may be a sign of intent by Speed, the future of Welsh football very much lies with him and Gareth Bale. Craig Bellamy will thrive on the atmosphere on Saturday afternoon and he could well be the key to unlock the English door in Cardiff.
England come into the game with the usual media circus, this time surrounding the reinstatement of John Terry as captain. Fabio Capello will be hoping that debacle is all forgotten about by 5pm tomorrow and England are crossing the border with all three points. If that doesn’t happen, Capello may well be on the next flight back to Italy. A defeat against their local rivals is simply unthinkable to the English especially after the events in South Africa in the summer.
The Welsh would love nothing more than to put the final nail in Fabio Capello’s coffin, but his record in qualifying campaigns is pretty impressive, and that is the reason why Wales will have to live in the English shadow for a little bit longer.
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