IT’S a Battle of Britain on Thursday as England face Wales in Euro 2016. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) gives us his view on the odds.
England v Wales | Thursday 14:00 | BBC One
Well this should be fun, eh? It already looked an exciting fixture when the draw was made at the end of last year but after Saturday’s results (and Wednesday’s matches) the intensity has really cranked up.
Let’s rewind to Saturday. Wales were locked in a battle with Slovakia that I think could have gone either way but Chris Coleman’s men snatched a late winner to triumph 2-1 and bring massive positivity to the nation. The joy amongst the staff and fans was palpable and it could be the jolt start that sends Wales hurtling towards a long spell in this competition.
I’ll be honest with you. I thought England were one of the best bets of the year on Saturday night against Russia and I invested accordingly. The late goal was a real sucker-punch, not just for my finances but for Roy Hodgson’s side.
England looked on a different level to the Russians in the first-half and perhaps the fact they hadn’t registered hurt their confidence a little as they looked less self-assured in the second period.
The goal deservedly come though but inexplicably they conceded deep into stoppage-time to put a real bad vibe over the match. After the gasps of excitement in the first-half the game ended on a sour note.
Things haven’t really improved since for England with more fan trouble, Wales taking the piss in press conferences and Wednesday’s results which saw Russia beaten fair and square by the team that Wales edged out, Slovakia.
Suddenly the pressure is on for England and Roy Hodgson and this match on Thursday for me is reminiscent of their contest with Scotland in Euro 96. That day they headed into that match under a cloud with the Scots buoyant after a decent draw with the Netherlands.
Of course, that match on Saturday 15th June 1996 proved to be pivotal for England as they recovered from an awkward start to win 2-0 and turn their whole tournament around. Perhaps the same thing will happen here?
Despite the fact Wales haven’t beaten England since 1984, the English look pretty short here at 8/13. As we know, over the last 25 years England haven’t been great in dealing with pressure and make no mistake about it the pressure is on here.
Wales can arrive in Lens feeling great about life and that should push them on here. At 13/2 Chris Coleman’s side look underrated to me and if you’re expecting them to get something from this game then the 19/20 +1 on the Asians looks a brilliant bet.
As you’ll know from my England v Russia thoughts and tournament views included in our free Euro 2016 magazine, I’m quite sweet on England and I’m not prepared to throw those thoughts in the bin after one game.
I think Wales might get off to a good start (like Scotland did in 1996) and rattle the English but ultimately Roy Hodgson’s men will come out on top. Class will out here in Lens and the English should be too strong for Wales.
If they’re smart they won’t beat themselves up about Saturday and simply refocus on producing the same kind of performance here.
With just two clean sheets in their last eight games, I’m expecting this high-as-a-kite Welsh side to penetrate the English goal but ultimately it won’t prove enough against a side who desperately need to keep calm and show that man for man they are a far superior side.
I’m going to go down the Correct Score route here and back England to win 2-1 and 3-1 at odds of 8/1 and 27/2 respectively. Just like 1996 England will emerge from their gloom to overpower a passionate smaller but less talented Home Nation.