Time to back up your fighting talk, England boss Roy Hodgson tells Wales

 
Frank Dalleres
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Euro 2016 - England Press Conference
Roy Hodgson compared England v Wales to a sibling rivalry (Source: Getty)

England manager Roy Hodgson has laid down the gauntlet to Wales and challenged them to back up pre-match fighting talk on the pitch in Thursday's Euro 2016 showdown in Lens.

Wales stars Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have cranked up the pressure on a Three Lions team who are already acutely aware they can ill afford another slip, having dropped two points against Russia on Saturday.

But Hodgson refused to take the bait on the eve of the first meeting between the sides at a major tournament, and refused to entertain a discussion about the relative merits of both groups of players.

Read more: England v Wales: the history

“Talk is talk and action on the field is action on the field,” he said.

“I’m surprised people focusing so much on talking, and if we were really taking seriously what people are saying or allowed it any way to affect concentration, we would be ashamed of ourselves.

“It will be a derby atmosphere and that’s great. It’s a game between brothers, if you like, and it adds spice and interest and it’s something I can only welcome really.

“It doesn’t alter the fact that whichever team is going to win is going to have to do it on the field by scoring more goals than the opposition. Football always rests on that patch of green between 90 and 95 minutes.”

Hodgson called Bale’s tongue-in-cheek quip that no England player would get in the Wales team “a matter of total disinterest to me” and, responding to suggestions that Wales had more passion, said he was “perfectly satisfied with the passion that we bring to our games”.

Wales’s jibes have played on England’s vulnerability. Russia’s injury-time equaliser in their opening match has left Hodgson’s men in danger of repeating their embarrassing group stage exit at the 2014 World Cup.

They sit bottom of the group, albeit with a game in hand over two of their rivals, and while third place could be enough to reach the last 16, even that is far from assured, with Slovakia awaiting on Monday.

Chris Coleman’s Wales, by contrast, are buoyant following their 2-1 defeat of Slovakia at the weekend and relishing a chance to upset the odds by beating England for the first time in 32 years.

Read more: England threatened with expulsion after violent clashes

Hodgson, who has a fully-fit squad to choose from, played down the significance of recent close battles with fellow home nation Scotland, and said he was confident he knew how Wales would play.

“This is a tournament and there are such important points at stake here whereas all that was available to us when we played Scotland, for example, was the bragging rights,” he added.

“I think they will play like they have been playing for quite a long period of time. I don’t think we’ll be surprised by what they try to do when they’ve got the ball or don’t have the ball.”

Coleman appeared keen to row back on his players’ bullishness on Wednesday, saying progress to the last 16 was a bigger carrot than defeating England.

He said: “We can be confident, but it’s not the time for us to think that we are something that we are not. That’s for sure.”

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