England need to match Wales's fight but don't need a special plan for Bale

Trevor Steven
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England v Russia - Group B: UEFA Euro 2016
There will be extra pressure on England captain Rooney to win his duels and dictate play (Source: Getty)

The pressure in today’s Euro 2016 clash is firmly on the shoulders of England, who know that defeat would leave them needing to beat an improving Slovakia to have any chance of progress.

By contrast, three points from their opening match means Wales can approach this Group B fixture in relaxed mood, and in little doubt about what their game-plan will be.

Chris Coleman’s aim will be for his side to play at a high tempo, to make the game ugly in a bid to disrupt England’s rhythm, and to win free-kicks around the penalty box for Gareth Bale to strike.

Read more: Hodgson lays down the gauntlet to tough-talking Wales

England’s task is two-fold: to cope with the pressure of an emotionally charged game against a fellow home nation, and to match their opponent’s physicality, especially in the opening stages.

One of football’s basic principles is that you have to go toe-to-toe with your opposite number, so England’s players will have to match Wales’s strength and purpose if they are to affect the game.

It’s about courage, doing everything they can to counteract Coleman’s side and playing the game in the Welsh half.

They will have to be robust, particularly in the first 20 minutes, while being wary of giving away silly free-kicks or picking up yellow cards.

Extra pressure on Rooney

Wayne Rooney will try to dictate the pace for England, so I expect Wales to try to close him down at every opportunity and force him to have a scrappy game.

For that reason there is extra pressure on Rooney, and the captain more than anyone will have to battle it out with the Wales midfielders before he can make his superior technical ability count.

I’d like England to stick with the same team, pattern and style of play despite only drawing 1-1 with Russia in their opener, because there were lots of positives.

That will mean just Harry Kane to occupy Wales’s three centre-backs, although that could open space in behind their wing-backs for England’s runners from midfield to exploit.

If it doesn’t work England can always adopt a Plan B, but I wouldn’t favour a diamond midfield as I think the team needs width – and not from forwards chasing into the flanks.

Keep faith with Kane

Kane had a quiet game last time but is a stick-on for me. Whether to keep faith with winger Raheem Sterling, who looks out of form and on edge, is a bigger concern.

Roy Hodgson’s problem in that respect is that he has a shortage of wide players in reserve. To that end, picking 18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford rather than another winger is starting to look silly.

Part of England’s battle is to stop Wales where they are effective, and that means limiting the supply to Bale and the influence of their other main threat, Aaron Ramsey.

I don’t think Roy needs a special plan for Bale; a general instruction to close down the opposition should be enough – we’re playing Wales, a team we know all about, not Argentina.

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