In the end, it was as dramatic as most neutrals had hoped, as England came from behind to beat Wales in one of the most eagerly anticipated matches of the group stages at Euro 2016. Both teams however, remain on-course for the round of the last 16.
FIRST BLOOD TO BALE
Three minutes before half-time in Lens when Wales were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position, England goalkeeper Joe Hart will have studied hours of video footage of how dead-ball expert Gareth Bale takes his kicks. Only five days earlier, he had scored his country’s first ever goal at a European Championships from a similar position against Slovakia, wrong-footing the goalkeeper with a moving, dipping shot that flew into the back of the net. When the Welsh wizard let fly against England, Hart looked to have his angles covered but having got both hands to the ball, he somehow failed to deflect it to safety and only succeeded in palming it into the net to give the underdogs the lead and send the Welsh fans into ecstasy.
DOUBLE SUBSTITUTION PAYS DIVIDENDS FOR HODGSON
Against Russia on matchday one, England Head Coach Roy Hodgson was criticised for the substitutions he made when the match seemed won at 1-0. Many people believed he should have been more positive by bringing on strikers Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. With his country’s participation in serious jeopardy in Lens last Thursday he took the gamble, removing the ineffective Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling with the strike duo. Within 10 minutes his decision had been vindicated as the Leicester City hot-shot reacted quickest in the penalty area to drag his country back into the contest. England had a new found impetus and only one team was going to claim all three-points; they did, but only just, as Sturridge slotted the ball past a helpless Hennessey two minutes into injury-time to give the Three-Lions a famous win.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 20, 2016
ENGLAND RELIEVED, WALES REMAIN POSITIVE
Going into the final round of group B games, England are pretty much guaranteed a place in the last 16, but they will be aware of the importance of beating Slovakia in Saint Etienne to ensure they top the standings and give themselves an easier opponent in the first knock-out stage. Wales can still top the group if they beat Russia and England only draw in their match, but Chris Coleman’s side would be eliminated from the competition if they lose and Slovakia draw or win against England. It will be interesting to see if Hodgson sticks with the two men who turned defeat into victory last week or whether the mis-firing Kane will get another chance to get his Euro 2016 goal tally up and running. Wales start as slight underdogs (currently quoted at *2.87 on the best online football betting sites) in Toulouse on Monday evening, despite having probably the most talented player in the tournament in Bale.
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell @barafundler