England began their 2016 Euro competition with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Russia over the weekend. While England controlled much of the game, a 92nd-minute goal by defender Vasili Berezutski left most of the English players with heads in their hands following the final whistle. The draw meant that England have never recorded a victory in an opening match at the Euros (in nine attempts).
For the game against Russia, manager Roy Hodgson chose a starting XI of Joe Hart, Kyle Walker, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Adam Lallana, Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling, and Harry Kane.
First, let’s discuss the negatives. Midfielders Lallana and Sterling both produced great runs from either wings on the pitch; however, the Liverpool player missed a few quality chances to put his team ahead in the match and Sterling made terrible decisions with the ball at his feet for a majority of the second half.
On the positive side, despite the frustrating result, Wayne Rooney looked very robust sitting just behind Kane. Spurs duo Walker and Dier also produced solid performances as well. Walker made a few nice runs up the right flank, while Dier scored what should have been the match-winning goal from a superb free kick in the 73rd minute.
With a mixed bag of performances by the previous starting XI, there will most likely be a few changes to the team that will suit up against Wales (I predict two changes).
Let’s take a look at how I believe the Three Lions should look for their massive match on Thursday.
Goalkeeper – Joe Hart. The Manchester City man is undoubtedly England’s first-choice keeper at the moment. Hart should be, and will be, in the starting XI on Thursday.
Defenders – Kyle Walker, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Danny Rose. The back four should remain intact. Ryan Bertrand would seemingly replace Rose at left back if not for an “unspecified knock” to the Southampton defender. Bertrand, however, is expected to play a part in England’s 2016 Euro run at some point in the near future.
Midfielders – Eric Dier, Jack Wilshere, Dele Alli, Wayne Rooney. Alli, Dier and Rooney ought stay in the starting XI, with Wilshere replacing Lallana. Much has been made of the Arsenal midfielder’s fitness over the last few months, but Wilshere has successfully seen playing time in England’s last four international games (including a 15 minute cameo against Russia). Wilshere brings a fantastic mixture of defense and offense that this England team could use at the moment.
Strikers – Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy. England’s use of only one true center forward should probably be abandoned for their upcoming match against Wales. Hodgson has deployed a formation with two strikers in games leading up to this prestigious tournament with success. Kane and Vardy started together during the team’s victory over Portugal in their last tune-up game earlier in the month. England also used Kane and Danny Welbeck in England’s win against Germany in March as well.
One other thing certainly has to change for the Wales match, and that’s Kane taking corners. The top goalscorer in the Premier League took six corners during the Russia match, only one fewer than he did in 38 league matches with Spurs this past season.
However Hodgson chooses to lineup for the “Battle of Britain,” it will surely be a fun match to watch. Thursday’s game will be the 102nd meeting between England and Wales (with Wales only winning 14 of these matches), and their first game against each other in nearly five years.
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