Group B is fascinatingly poised after the opening fixtures. England need a win against rivals Wales to get their campaign back on track, while Gareth Bale & Co. can taste the knockout stages if they avoid defeat.
Nick Miller (England) and Glen Wilson (Wales) preview Thursday’s big match.
What’s at stake here?
Nick Miller: Plenty. The bad news for England is Wales would probably be absolutely delighted with a draw, having won their opener against Slovakia, whereas England need a win, especially if they want to finish top of the group and avoid an extremely nervy final game. The good news is that despite the obvious frustration over failing to take chances and Roy Hodgson’s tactical inertia, England played pretty well against Russia and created plenty of chances to kill the game off. Against a defence that probably isn’t quite as strong, they might be able to punch through a little more readily.
Glen Wilson: A chance to show there’s life in British football beyond England. This fixture has been hyped as the major attraction for Wales ever since the groups were drawn. But the truth is, for Wales fans, it’s merely an irritating inconvenience. This is toleration rather than anticipation; the bigger matches for Wales are against Slovakia and Russia, and with one of those already won, the pressure is off Chris Coleman’s side.
NM: Eric Dier vs. Gareth Bale
There’s a good chance that Coleman will change a winning team, specifically by bringing Hal Robson-Kanu up front from the start and shifting Bale back to the role in which he’s most dangerous, just behind the striker. Dier got the headlines for scoring England’s goal against Russia, but he was superb in his designated role too, as he mopped up at the base of their midfield, and if Bale reverts to the No. 10 position, he’ll have to be even more on his game to stop the Real Madrid man.
GW: Ashley Williams vs. Jamie Vardy
Vardy gave Williams a torrid time in the Premier League this season, and so Wales’ captain will need to show improvement on the clumsy performance he gave in the opening game in Bordeaux. How Roy Hodgson deploys Vardy will have a big impact on how often this battle occurs, but if Williams can stand up to the threat of England’s attacking pace, it will help instill confidence in the rest of Wales’ backline.
NM: Jamie Vardy
But will he start? Hodgson might reason that the performance against Russia was good enough that he doesn’t have to alter his side much. However, England’s lack of penetration was troubling, so bringing in the man who had the season of his life for Leicester could be a way of changing that. There is talk that Harry Kane could be dropped, perhaps in favour of Daniel Sturridge, but that would surely be a knee-jerk reaction to what was simply a slightly under par performance for the Tottenham man. A two-pronged attack, with Vardy partnering Kane in a game England have to win, would be a positive move.
GW: Aaron Ramsey
He showed some neat touches and clever flicks against Slovakia but lacked a little conviction, particularly in willing to go for goal late in the game. Wales cannot afford such hesitance against England and will need their star players to perform. Ramsey, along with midfield compatriot Joe Allen, has the ability to run a match from midfield when on his best form. That’s exactly what Wales will need him to do.
NM: 1-1. England won’t cope with the pressure.
GW: 1-1. As much a hope as a prediction, but a draw should be enough to take Wales through, and with two games in which to achieve that, the pressure falls on England to go for the win.
Germany and Poland both won their opening matches in Group C, so the winner of this one can seal progress to the next round.
England need to beat Wales to boost their hopes of qualifying from Group B, after they drew and the Welsh won their first match.
German head coach Joachim Loew responded to the footage of him seen scratching and smelling himself during the world champions’ opening Euro 2016 match.
Belgium head coach remains confident of his attacking game plan despite a 2-nil loss to Italy.
Ukraine’s Artem Fedetskiy rejects German suggestions the players were smoking and drinking after their defeat at Euro 2016.
Germany will continue to use Bastian Schweinsteiger in his role as super sub in their second group match against Poland on Thursday, says Joachim Low.