England – $1.57 at Sportsbet.com.au
Draw – $4 at William Hill
Wales – $7 at www.Bet365.com
Rioting fans have rather overshadowed what was an all-too-familiar story for England in their EURO 2016 opener last Saturday.
Coming off a flawless qualifying campaign, the Three Lions dominated Russia in the first hour and looked poised to make it 11 wins from 11 when Eric Dier smashed home a close-range free kick with less than 20 minutes remaining.
But they couldn’t add to their tally, and it all came undone in the dying moments of injury time when Sergei Ignashevich looped a perfectly weighted header over Joe Hart to make it 1-1.
It would be unfair to completely damn Roy Hodgson and his charges, however, as some slightly sharper finishing would have put the icing on what was an otherwise impressive attacking display.
Adam Lallana was a constant threat with his workrate and clever running in the final third, while Wayne Rooney’s superb long-range passing showed why many feel he is the heir apparent to Steven Gerrard in midfield.
Kyle Walker and Danny Rose also delivered plenty of grunt from the fullback positions, storming up and down the flanks with the freedom of out-and-out wingers at times.
But some cracks did show, especially once Hart’s distribution and decision making in goal – which was excellent in the first half – started to disintegrate as the match wore on.
As if stumbling at the first hurdle wasn’t embarrassment enough for England, now they must suffer the indignity of facing Wales as challengers to the Group B throne.
Goals from Gareth Bale and Hal Robson-Kanu saw the Red Dragons take out a 2-1 victory over Slovakia in their first-ever appearance at the European Championship finals.
That means Chris Coleman’s men will head into the Thursday’s derby date in pole position to qualify for the round of 16.
While the media is afire with reports of attacks on English and Welsh fans in France, a few of the players are ramping up the heat with some pointed comments in the press.
England’s Jack Wilshere said recently: “If you put both teams down on paper, we would win the game.”
But Aaron Ramsey, Wilshere’s teammate at Arsenal, reckons otherwise.
“I believe we have the best team,” Ramsey told the press this week.
“We’ve been through a lot. We’re seeing the rewards.”
He added: “We’ve been together through thick and thin. We fight for each other, we work our socks off for each other.”
He isn’t the only one who thinks along those lines.
When a reporter asked Gareth Bale which England players would make the Wales XI, he replied: “None.”
“We know we’re a good team and know we can beat them on our day,” the Real Madrid forward said.
“I’m not saying England don’t have pride or passion, I’m sure they do. I just feel that we have more. I’m sure they have their opinion that they have more also.
“I just feel, whether it’s football, rugby or whatever sport it is, in Wales we seem to have that next level.”
Wayne Rooney betting markets
Many have questioned the value of shoe-horning Rooney into the England engine room, but his performance last weekend showed why Hodgson has done just that.
Despite playing as a striker for most of his footballing life, the Manchester United man possesses the vision, technique and stamina of a career midfielder.
There’s also plenty to suggest that, free from the clutches of grabby centre-halves, he could be a serious goal threat from the edge of the box.
Were it not for an outstanding save from Igor Akinfeev, he would have opened the scoring against Russia in just such a fashion.
With a game under his belt and some of the doubts put to rest, Rooney could be even more dangerous from now on.
Rooney to score anytime – $2.75 (William Hill)
Rooney to score first England goal – $4.40 (Sportsbet)
Rooney to score first goal – $6 (Sportsbet)
Rooney to score two or more goals – $11 (William Hill)
Rooney to score a hat-trick – $67 (William Hill)
Euro 2016 Gareth Bale specials
Wales’ star man delivered at the first time of asking, netting his nation’s maiden goal at the Euros with a well-taken knuckleball.
Naturally, the former Tottenham Hotspur playmaker will be the centre of attention in what is shaping up as a fascinating derby clash.
He’s already done what the likes of Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Muller, Kane, Lukaku, Morata and Griezmann couldn’t in the first round of Euro 2016 matches.
Can he back it up and give Welsh football fans the biggest night of their lives?
Bale to score anytime – $3.30 (CrownBet)
Bale to score first Wales goal – $4.20 (Sportsbet)
Bale first goal and Wales to win – $13 (William Hill)
Bale to score in both halves – $29 (William Hill)
Bale to score a hat-trick – $101 (William Hill)
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