Three Lions Need More Roar Power To Beat Bales

England’s agonizing late surrender of an equaliser to Russia on Saturday night was a painful lesson that big chances have to be taken as Roy Hodgson’s men should have put away a side that Slovakia did with consummate ease yesterday.

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Roy Hodgson’s typically conservative team selection and tactics, attempting to hang on to the goal advantage earned by Eric Dier’s sumptuous free-kick instead of pressing home England’s obvious superiority with a second goal, massively backfired.

In football as in life, you have to risk losing in order to win.

The late substitutions of Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling with Jack Wilshire and James Milner and the third, planned but not executed of Jordan Henderson for Adam Lallana smacked of negativity.

Fresh attacking impetus, energy and pace were needed to stretch the Russians and put Leonid Slutsk’s men on the back foot yet by doing the opposite and retreating, the England manager beckoned the red Bears on and paid the price.

Against Wales, England must go for the jugular and put the game to bed.

If Wales are blessed with the one-man footballing cyclone that is Gareth Bales in full flight, England have a clutch of attacking talent in their arsenal.

Jamie Vardy, having shot Leicester City to the unlikeliest of Premier League titles with 24 goals, is a man on fire. With his electric pace and razor sharp finishing, he is is one of the most feared strikers around. He must play.

The massively off-form Raheem Sterling who had a very underwhelming season in Man City’s colours following his £50M move from Liverpool must be dropped. Like in Brazil, he has flattered to deceive and fails to deliver when it matters.

Its been said Rashford could play left-wing for England and Vardy has featured in a wide role under Hodgson yet football is a simple game complicated by fools and its time for square pegs in square holes with strikers up front and central.

England legend and former Captain Alan Shearer questioned – rightly – why Harry Kane was taking The Three Lions corners. As a natural goalscorer who has been compared with Shearer, Kane’s natural habitat is in the area especially from set-pieces where the chance of getting directly on the end of a delivery or gobbling up the scraps is increased.

With Sturridge & Rashford also on the bench, England have 5 goalscorers & should be using 3 or 4 a game including subs in search of the goals that are proving elusive in the Euros finals so far with no team yet to score more than 2 in a game.

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If Hodgson dares use the totally unknown quantity Rashford as a secret weapon or Vardy as impact sub against tiring defences as he did vs Germany in a pre-Euros friendly then its imperative he starts with two up top to wear defences down.

It was suggested post-Russia that England need Wayne Rooney in both midfield and attack, equipped as he is with the quality and experience of a veteran of 112 caps and 52 goals for his country.

He shone in the midfield role against Russia yet as England’s best striker of a ball, could still deliver in the no. 9 role.

Gareth Bale, meanwhile, will antagonize England all over the pitch, floating as he does from wing to wing and through the middle posing an omnipotent threat in the final third of the pitch.

Perhaps inspired by the late,great Muhammad Ali, he has even indulged in some pre-match sparring in the press first questioning the level of passion in the England camp and suggesting no England player would get into the Wales side:

“It’s good that they bit,” he said. “I didn’t say they didn’t have pride or passion. In my opinion we have more. They probably will say the same. I’m happy with the comments. We’ve got a massive team spirit, the best I’ve seen. It’s just my opinion.”

Such words could come back to haunt him if England’s response on the field is as forthright and measured as Roy Hodgson’s:

“Receiving disrespectful comments is part and parcel of being a footballer and a football coach,” Hodgson said.

“They can have those opinions but I don’t have any doubts personally about our patriotism or desire and that’s the important thing…

“But we know who we are, we know what we are. We don’t have any doubts about ourselves in that respect.”

Bale is one of the best players on Planet Football right now and used to taking the responsibility of match-winning in big games as he did against Joe Hart and Manchester City in The Champions League Semi-Final.

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Yet as Iceland showed against Portugal, stopping Ronaldo stops the Galactico-based team and while Wales also possess players the calibre of Aaron Ramsey, if England stop Bale they will go a long way to stopping Wales.
England Captain Wayne Rooney spoke more respectfully of Bale yet played down suggestions that he will be man-marked:

“I think he is a fantastic player, probably in the top five players in the world,” the England captain said.

“He is the biggest threat for Wales, but I don’t think we will go out and man-mark him.

“I think we have to go out and play our game. They will have a lot to think about our team, too.

“I think we’ve got a good team, a good solid team and I’m sure it will be a fascinating game.”

Ominously for Wales, England tend to start tournaments they do well in slowly then improve as the matches progress as tactics are tweaked : in the Three Lions’ best ever European Championships in 1996, Terry Venables’ men began with a draw and in 1966, the team that would win The World Cup kicked off proceedings with a goal-less draw against Uruguay.

Whichever heavyweight Captain gets the final word on the pitch will win British bragging rights for a long time to come.

 

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