Connect in the back of the net

After a disappointing opening match against Russia that saw them concede a late goal to draw 1-1, England greatly increased their chances of making it safely past the group stages following their triumphant encounter against arch rivals Wales.

They may be united by geographical proximity so much that there would be no United Kingdom without either one of them, but England and Wales are a far cry away in terms of sporting ideologies.

England have been the predominant side in football having won the FIFA World Cup in 1966 – although they haven’t come any close since – while Wales are making their first appearance in a major tournament for the first time in more than half a century.

Their meeting was bound to be a culmination of blood, thunder and snort and it lived up to the pre-match hype.

On paper, England were the better side with more accomplished Premier League players while logic had it that Wales would go into the encounter beaming with confidence having won their first match against Slovakia.

However, it was the Three Lions that carried the day as they came from behind to win it 2-1.

Here are three key observations from the match.


Super subs steal the moment

As expected the start of the match was marked with nasty tackles from both sides, but it was England that had the better chances on goal.

Raheem Sterling missed an absolute sitter in the opening exchanges of the match, a miscue that came back to haunt Roy Hodgson’s side when Wales went ahead three minutes before the interval through a bullet free kick from Gareth Bale.

The England gaffer took a massive gamble by bringing on Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy for Harry Kane and Sterling, a move that reaped massive dividends as the two subs went on to score both goals.

The Leicester marksman scored the equalizer from an offside position, but the goal stood as it went down as an Ashley Williams own-goal.

Sturridge on the other hand wiggled through the Welsh defense before poking the winner in the 91st minute.


Possible qualification into the next round

The win over Wales was as integral as it was necessary, as it took England to the top of Group B with four points.

The Three Lions now need only one point from their last group match against Slovakia to attain automatic qualification into the last 16; a threshold they should be able to meet with relative ease.

From the look of things, England and Wales look poised to make it into the next round.


Sterling ineffectual

Raheem Sterling proved to be a weak link in the England team as the game changed as soon as he came off.

None of his trickery and fancy little bit of play came off and whenever they didn’t, the lads were left trailing back to quell the sting of the Welsh counter attack.

Hodgson will have to make tough yet effective call of starting the Manchester City forward on the bench for the sake of the whole team.


Written by Brian Humphrey

Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum

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