It’s crunch time in Group B, as the top of the group England faces the bottom of the group Wales. Both sides are still able to make the 2022 FIFA World Cup round-of-16, whilst both are in danger of finishing in the bottom two. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Tuesday night’s game.
Gareth Southgate’s side started their World Cup in tremendous fashion, putting six past Iran. It first looked like a routine win, but after Iran’s excellent dismantling of Wales, the Three Lions’ win looks more impressive. Friday night’s encounter with USA provided a fantastic opportunity to get six points from six. Southgate’s side returned to their pre-World Cup form, which saw them go six games without a win, as they luckily walked away from the game with a point in the bag. Four points should be enough to see them through into the last 16, but with USA and Iran hot on their heels, Southgate’s side can’t afford to get complacent.
What’s gone wrong for Wales in Qatar? Robert Page’s side have been one of the worst in the World Cup, picking up one point from their opening two fixtures. Gareth Bale is struggling to have any real impact on games, and he isn’t helped out by those around him either. Wales currently sit bottom of Group B, two points off the top-two spots. Elimination looks all but certain, unless an upset is on the cards. By an upset we don’t mean a smash and gran one-nil win either, Wales need to win 4-0 against their neighbouring rivals to take their place in the round of 16.
When & Where?
Where: Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium.
When: November 29th 2022.
Time: 19:00 BST.
In case you missed it, Wayne Hennessey decided to switch sports against Iran as he pulled out a challenge straight from WWE. The Nottingham Forest shot-stopper ran out to stop an Iran attack, and completely missed the ball so took out the man instead – he did stop a goal-scoring opportunity, but he got sent off, banned for the next game and his side ended up losing 2-0, was it worth it Wayne? Because of his ludicrous attempt at winning the ball, Hennessey will miss the game against England on Tuesday night, meaning Danny Ward will take his place between the sticks.
The Leicester goalkeeper, Ward, has the second-most clean sheets in the Premier League this season.
There are no new absentees for Gareth Southgate’s side, other than James Maddison who is yet to feature in Qatar due to injury. Some news broke today claiming Jordan Henderson is in line to start in place of Jude Bellingham, and also Phil Foden could come into the side after criticism over his lack of game time. A point will secure their progression to the final 16, should Southgate stick to his guns or roll the dice to get over the line?
The optimist in me wants to say that England will sail through to the round of 16. However, I am no ordinary England fan. Casting my memory back to Nottingham Forest vs Stoke in the final game two years ago is all I need to remind me that nothing is ever certain. Even though this game should be pretty easy for Gareth Southgate’s team, Wales looks beyond bad in Qatar. I haven’t seen a convincing play from Wales that makes me think they have what it takes to get to the round of 16.
Robert Page likes to set his side up in a 3-4-3 system, with a clear emphasis of getting the ball forward from wide positions. Both fullbacks, Neco Williams and Connor Roberts will look to get the ball high and wide before playing in one of the front three. This is where Wales can be a real threat. We saw against Iran, all of Wales’ good opportunities came from moving the ball before trying to get into the box – although nothing paid off. Kieffer Moore in a central role provides the perfect target for wingers to hit crosses into and was unfortunate not to score in last Friday’s defeat. He will have a tough time against Harry Maguire and John Stones, but if he can find time in the box, he could prove to be a handful.
The biggest issue England had last week was just how stagnant they are. Playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, England dominated possession against the USA, who chose to sit back and defend their box for most of the game. Southgate’s side had no solution to this and passed it between defenders for most of the game. Going forward, the Tree Lions seemed clueless, they moved possession far too slowly to create chances and looked out of ideas for the whole 90 minutes. When they did move the ball forward, they were quickly met with two or three USA defenders who shut down any real opportunities.
Fortunately for England, they won’t have to worry about a team sitting deep on Tuesday night. Wales need to win, nothing else will do and that will force them to play open progressive football. With the space available for England, they will be able to do what they do best and that is let their star players excel. England have a lot of talented attacking players like Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford, who all have the technical ability to beat their man and create chances which they will do when they are outnumbered.
This is the typical game you expect Harry Kane to thrive in, with his hold-up play and finishing ability crucial to moving his team downfield. Kane didn’t look fit against USA though and could be on the bench to regain fitness ahead of the second half, or the round of 16, which gives room for Callum Wilson or Rashford to start up top. This pace filled England attack could easily exploit the spaces left behind Wales’ fullbacks and overwhelm the Wales backline. Robert Page’s side need to be at their very best to get a win against England, they’re going to need a miracle to get past the group stages.
Premier League players to look out for
Wales – Kieffer Moore
As a Nottingham Forest fan, I know all too well about Kieffer Moore finding the back of the net – in nine games against the Reds he’s scored four goals. Moore is a physical striker whose towering presence sees him rise above most centre-backs. When it comes to getting balls into the box, there aren’t many more strikers you would want to see on the end of an in-swinging cross.
Last week, England gave away plenty of corners to USA who failed to convert from any of them, but with someone as prolific in the air as Moore is – the Three Lions might not be so lucky this time. Gareth Bale is yet to turn up in Qatar, so Wales will need to look to someone else to push them forward. Can Moore be the man to upset Gareth Southgate’s side?
England – Bukayo Saka
England were contained perfectly by the USA last week. They had just put six past Iran but couldn’t lay as much as a finger on the American backline. Players were outnumbered and given no time on the ball, there was nothing anyone could do to bypass their low block, Saka was one of those players, the same who flourished against Iran shut-out by a resilient USA game plan.
Against Wales, Saka and co should have far more room and time to get forward. Usually lining up on the left behind the striker, Saka will be running up against Connor Roberts who is far more focused on getting up the pitch rather than protecting what’s behind him. If Sake can exploit this space, he will have the room to cut inside or get balls into the box and as we saw against Iran he is lethal from these positions. He’s not the best player in Southgate’s side, but he might just be the deadliest.
Wales predicted lineup vs England: Ward, Davies, Rodon, Mepham, Williams, Ampadu, Ramsey, Roberts, Bale, Moore, James.
England predicted lineup vs Wales: Pickford, Shaw, Maguire, Stones, Walker, Rice, Henderson, Saka, Mount, Sterling, Wilson.