EURO 2016 is only two months away, and one fixture has been the subject of constant debate: England vs Wales. With each fan-base ardently arguing their case, be it an English or Welsh win, this game will be the centre of enormous bragging rights, come the final whistle in Lens.
It is my opinion that England will fail to beat Wales; for one central reason.
England deal with pressure as well as Joleon Lescott dealt with Aston Villa’s relegation. Over the last decade, the English national team has been a constant disappointment in major tournaments. This ineptitude on the global stage is, alongside other variables, due to the pressure each English player feels when he pulls on the ‘famous shirt’.
One would have thought that playing on a pitch surrounded by a scattering of genuine fans, with the rest of the stadium occupied by those in a privileged position of wealth, connection and power, that they would not feel the pressure. Yet, they do.
Where the pressure stems from is not the focus of this article, but it exists, and it’s crippling.
England’s latest friendlies act as a microcosm for this argument. No one expected much from England’s trip to Berlin. As a result, Hodgson’s men played without fear against Germany, overturning a 2-0 deficit in an emphatic style. Yet, because of this very win, they were expected to dispose of Holland with ease. Instead, they were shackled by this pressure, failing to replicate the lucid manner in which they performed against the world champions.
Come 16th June, England’s starting eleven will emerge from the tunnel burdened by expectation. They are, on paper, a much better side than Wales and a win will be anticipated. However, the best they will muster is a draw.
Hodgson’s side will not play without fear, will not be experimental, or fluid.
They will fall victim to the paralysing psychology that is endemic to the national team, and shrink, as they always do.
Whether or not Wales will capitalise fully or not is another matter.