World Cup: Uphill climb for Wales vs England
If England need any added motivation in their final World Cup group game against Wales on Tuesday, they only need to watch a certain video from 2016.
Footage of Wales players celebrating wildly as their UK neighbour crashed out of the European Championship after losing to Iceland went viral at the time.
England were humiliated. Wales, which lost 2-1 to the Three Lions in the group stage but went on to reach the semi-final, was jubilant.
Much has changed since then — a point England forward Marcus Rashford made ahead of the Group B match.
“I don’t think it takes a genius to see how we’ve improved since 2016. For me it feels like a completely different team. We’ve come on so much. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves along the way,” he said.
“Back in 2016, if you look at that performance when we got knocked out the Euros, it is a million miles off where we are now. You cannot really compare the two situations.”
That sentiment is backed up by England’s tournament performances over the last four years — reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and the final of last year’s European Championship, which it lost on penalties to Italy.
England are among the favourites to triumph in Qatar and only need a point against Wales to guarantee qualification to the knockout stages. Depending on goal difference, England could still progress even if they lose.
Bottom of the group with one point from their first two matches, Wales must win to have any chance of reaching the round of 16 at their first World Cup since 1958. “That’s the hurt at the moment,” said midfielder Joe Allen. “It’s a feeling of missed opportunity in the first two games.”
Wales will be looking for inspiration from Gareth Bale if they have to win against England for the first time since 1984. The Los Angeles FC forward came into the tournament on the back of just one game since the start of October and has looked laboured in his performances.
Bale, Wales’s most capped player, had only one shot on goal against Iran while both he and Aaron Ramsey were dispossessed several times.
Rashford backs coach
England’s Rashford does not agree with suggestions that England are too conservative under manager Gareth Southgate, insisting that they too have a killer instinct.
“We have great players, playing top football against the best opposition week in and week out, so we can’t go into games and think negatively,” Rashford said.
Written with inputs from AP/PTI, Reuters