Wales v England
Wales go into their final group game in Group B against England needing somewhat of a miracle to qualify for the next round. Rob Page’s men will need Iran and USA to draw and find an unlikely win against England but if either the USA or Iran win their game they will need an even unlikelier 4-goal-win over England, but coming off a devastating 2-0 defeat to Iran, Wales will want to prove to everybody that they are better than their two performances so far have shown and give their fans something to smile about and who better to do it against than their noisy neighbours. With both Rob Page and Gareth Southgate getting a bit of stick after their sides last performances we might see a few changes on both sides, or at least that is what the fans will hope. It could end up being a long night for the Wales defence up against the likes of Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden but despite conceding two goals to Iran they were actually the only positive from that game, with Chris Mepham, Joe Rodon and Ben Davies putting on good defensive displays until Wayne Hennessey’s red card that left them up against it with only ten men, but they will need the attack to help them out this time by creating and finishing any chance they may get.
England did not back up their excellent 6-2 win vs Iran start when they were held to a dismal 0-0 draw by the USA. Gareth Southgate’s men were outplayed by their American counterparts and were arguably lucky to escape with a point. England showed very little ambition in that match, and it was a reminder of the tendencies of the manager which is normally a safety-first approach when applicable. It was obvious that England were playing for a draw for the majority of the second half but it’s a point which has made their progression into the next round a virtual formality. They would have to lose this match by a four goal margin not to qualify for the last 16, which realistically isn’t happening. England’s approach to the game is likely to be on the cautious side again. They would like to win this match so they can guarantee the group win, but they don’t need to over-commit to anything.
England have employed the exact same XI in both matches so far and there must be a temptation to bring some fresh legs into the side after a tired performance vs the USA. There has been an inquest from the English fans and media about why Phil Foden didn’t come off the bench in that game. Considered by many to be a ‘generational talent’, he hasn’t started a tournament match for England since the 0-0 draw vs Scotland last summer. He and Jack Grealish could be candidates to come into the side, probably in place of Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling. Captain Harry Kane is clearly not 100% and dealing with a knee ailment so we could see him rested and the likes of Callum Wilson or Marcus Rashford come into the side upfront. Kyle Walker or Trent-Alexander Arnold could also be a candidate to replace Kieran Trippier at right back. England have the extra squad depth over Wales and that ultimately could be crucial. The Welsh have endured two very tiring games and I would expect England to eventually have too much and likely win to nil.
Wales need to beat England for any chance of progressing. If they win 4-0 they will finish above England but any win will do as long as Iran and USA ends a draw.
A big problem for Wales is the pace and talent England have going forward, especially given space to operate while Wales go forward.
England were very clinical in the opening match – 7 shots on target and 6 goals. To put it in perspective, they had a lower xGF than Canada in their 1-0 defeat to Belgium.Both Wales matches so far have had over 1.5 goals. The 1-1 draw vs USA also hit a total 2.03 xG. Then, against Iran, total xG hit 1.90.England were frustrated in the last game and they’ll want to bounce back here with a convincing victory. In a must win game for Wales, I fear the worst for them. This has the potential to be a heavy England win, in my opinion.
Chris Mepham has committed four fouls in total against the USA and Iran (two in each game) picking up one yellow card in the process and playing on the right side of a back three he will be coming up against Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, both of whom we know like to go down so he will have a hard time staying out of trouble again.
England have had their fair share of possession in this tournament. They had a whopping 78% of the ball vs Iran and 55% vs the USA. Facing a Wales team who are likely to sit deep for large periods then their possession amount is likely to be closer to the Iran mark, or at least at 60%.
One of the main reasons that England have had so much possession has been a willingness to constantly pass the ball around the defensive line. Sometimes, England operates with too much caution and opt for the safer short pass rather than anything riskier. It is noticeable how many passes John Stones has had at this World Cup. He racked up an astonishing 117 attempted passes vs Iran and then 89 vs the USA. I have to believe that trend will continue because England aren’t going to suddenly abandon their style. Stones should get 90 mins of action and is unlikely to come off the field barring injury.
A safer bet would be to take over 70 attempted passes at 1.44 but I am amazed he is such a big price for 90+ considering his numbers in the first two group games. The amount of injury time being awarded is without doubt continuing to higher attempted passing numbers and this is the sort of contest which stands out for having significant added on time.
This is a very similar pick to the John Sones selection, but in this instance, I think it is wiser to go with the lower attempted pass line. Harry Maguire has attempted exactly 74 passes in both of England’s matches so far.
He will try some more deeper balls than Stones and less likely to take the shorter option, but he is still someone who is really racking up significant attempted passes at this World Cup under the current England system. It is worth mentioning that he was withdrawn after 70 minutes in the Iran match due to illness, so imagine how many he would have attempted if he’d played the full match!
It might have been closer to the 100 mark in all honesty. England should at worst have 60% possession in this match, possibly more. Should that happen and if he stays on the field then it is difficult to see how he won’t reach the 70 attempted passes barrier. The odds on this are not amazing but this pick looks like a really safe bet builder or accumulator play.
This is a bet which has won in each of the first two group games. Of all the attacking quartet, Saka is the least likely to be dropped due to some impressive performances.
One area of his game which continues to go under the radar are his fouls. Saka actually averages 1.30 fouls per game in the Premier League for Arsenal this season. He has only obtained 3 yellow cards and isn’t known for being a dirty player, but he is prone to being fouled quite a lot himself which can often lead to frustration. He is the type of player who will craftily hold back on the opposition to stop them from breaking. He is also not the greatest timer of a tackle, so in probably 70-80 mins of action it would be a surprise if he played a clean game.
Against Iran, he produced two fouls and was maybe fortunate not to go in the book. In the USA match he was penalised exactly once, and it seems he cannot help himself to commit a caution. His price for a foul has shortened, but at 1.44 the odds are still very backable. Wales are the sort of team who will push Saka and I expect he will bite.
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