Slovakia thoroughly deserved their three points against Russia and both of their goals were out of the top draw. This is the same Slovakia side that beat Germany in the build up to the tournament and there can be no doubt that they have players that can hurt us.
Roy Hodgson might have stumbled upon an attacking line-up that can do well in this tournament because Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy made the difference on Thursday but I’m not buying that Roy made a tactical masterstroke at half-time by turning to that pair.
We needed goals and it was obvious that Harry Kane was struggling, while Raheem just looks very short on confidence at the moment. Roy knew that game was slipping away from us if he didn’t make changes and the biggest relief of all is that he didn’t wait until it was too late.
There was none of the spark that we’ve seen from Kane in the Premier League but sitting out of the Slovakia game out could be the best thing that will happen to him because not only will it freshen him up in terms of rest, but if or when he is called up next, he’ll be desperate to show the world exactly what he’s all about – and that’s no bad thing for us.
Pressure from the mass media forced Hodgson into taking Kane off corner duty against Wales and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same external force played its part in ensuring the manager starts with the guys that did the business in the second half, meaning Kane and Sterling miss out.
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Not much has gone right for Raheem so far and Roy’s loyalty to him is being stretched to the limit now. I’ll be surprised if he retains his place on Monday but that in itself creates issues because we don’t have any natural replacements who play wide. Someone like James Milner could come in and do a job and the upside to that would be that he adds solidity to the midfield that Sterling didn’t bring.
I know we’ve only played Russia and Wales, but I’ve been quite impressed by the solidity we’ve shown as a defensive group given so few people seem to rate us in that department.
I thought Daniel Sturridge was the main difference on Thursday and if he carries that form into Monday’s game then the 5/1 about the Liverpool striker scoring first looks a great bet, as does the 13/8 about him netting at any point. That’s the way I would go in this game.
If I was a Welshman I would have been disappointed at how defensive Chris Coleman’s side became in the second half of the England game – we saw almost nothing from then in the attacking third despite the fact that they’ve got one of the best offensive players in the world in Gareth Bale.
I will be even more disappointed if they don’t adopt a more positive approach against Russia and if they do, they could be rewarded because the Russians have been very poor in both games so far and they look there for the taking. A Welsh win looks a huge price to me at best odds 2/1 and I make that the bet of the day.