ENG vs WAL Euro Analysis 2016

ENG vs WAL Euro Analysis 2016

I’m sure you all probably watched the Euro’s over the summer and saw England’s awful campaign versus a very solid Welsh campaign that saw them through to the semi-finals.

What was it that made England so poor and Wales so successful? In my opinion it’s the following…


Everybody says that people playing for their country should be proud and passionate, with a fighting spirit to win at the highest level. This, I believe every international player has, but however players show it in a different way to the likes of John Terry does. I have played with players who are very calm and like to joke about before the game and when they are on the pitch they’re almost like a father figure who is the calm head and seizes the game through a piece of magic.

Others, however, show it through grit and determination like Steven Gerrard and John Terry. Fans, either way you show your passion for the country loves to see the players fighting for games and the win. I understand that players have off days, due to all sorts of reasons, lack of sleep the night before, fatigue, confidence or just not feeling good during the game. Sometimes it happens, but as a coach once told me, at any one point during the game 2 or 3 of the 11 players won’t be playing to their maximum and it’s your job to look after you team mates and encourage them through that period. This is linked to team spirit.

I just felt that throughout most, if not all the games England players just didn’t want it badly enough. They didn’t run those extra yards or chase the ball and play with a positive attitude to go and score goals. In contrast, Wales were hungry for the win and played like a team that was proud to wear their national shirt and wanted to be successful, free of the fear of making mistakes

Team Spirit

Team spirit is a massive part of team success. I’ve played in several teams where the team spirit hasn’t been positive and collaborative and we’ve not had great results. However, I’ve also played in team spirit’s where we’d look around at each other and run that extra distance to make a tackle or sprint in the 92nd minute to stop the cross when defending. It makes a huge difference for the team and means they become cohesive.

The England team, to my eye, didn’t look like a team that was happy playing with each other and understood how each other played. They looked like they had been bundled together and had never met each other before. Again, when some of the team are playing badly, its team spirit that will help you to get through those bad patches and believe you can turn to game around to win. A prime example is in the England vs Iceland game.

They went 1-0 up only to be 2-1 down 15 minutes later, and at no point throughout the rest of the game was I confident England were going to come back from that. They didn’t have a ‘we don’t know we’re beaten attitude’ that the Alex Ferguson’s teams used to have. In contrast, if you look at the Wales team it was clear to see to everyone that the whole team bonded, which stood them in great stead throughout the tournament.

I know that a lot of the Welsh team had played with each other for 4 or 5 years before this tournament and understood how everyone played. Player for Player they didn’t have the strongest team in the tournament, but their team spirit and desire to work and play for each other ensured that they made it through to the semi-finals of a European Championship, which is no mean feat.

Much has been made recently that footballers listen to headphones and music before the games and that means that they don’t speak to each other and don’t get along as well. I partly believe this and I partly don’t. The world of football has become more international than at any other stage, which means that when representing a club, you have players of different languages and cultures and some may not be able to speak the mother language so conversation would be minimal.

But if the language was a barrier, then laughing and joking and singing and dancing together can be done in any language around the world. Some players prefer to listen to headphones to ‘get them in the zone’ beforehand, which is fine. But I personally don’t think you cant beat a good team atmosphere by talking to your team mates and getting to know them and having a laugh and joke to build team chemistry and team spirit. There’s a time and places for headphones, but I think we need less of that, and more conversation.


Again, if you look at the way England played during the Euro’s there was no urgency to win the game or get the goal. I’m a purist and I love to play football along the ground and to the feet, much the way Arsenal, Spain and Barcelona play. But when they’re in possession, they have a lot of it and poke and probe and constantly look dangerous moving the ball quickly. But I look at England and they had a fair bit of possession yet they, just didn’t look dangerous to me. The build-up play was slow and the movement was poor which meant they kept possession in the wrong end of the pitch.

If you compare this to Spain or Barcelona, everyone in the team is constantly moving into space, receiving the ball, giving it back moving again to create space for either themselves or their team mates and they played one touch and two touch, whereas England again often took too many touches, or poor touches that left them in a bad position to play a cutting edge pass.

Wales on the other hand, look to play quickly, keep possession and counter attack where possible. This meant that during the game against Russia, they scored 3 great goals. Again the movement from Ramsey, Allen and Ledley meant that they were always creating space for each other and the movement of Bale, Robson-Kanu etc. were always looking to play forward and move the ball quickly to prevent the opposing team be able to set up in a rigid structure and defend easily against them.

A system that works

One of the biggest problems that I felt frustrated at during the Euro’s is that England didn’t have a system that they felt comfortable in. Often there were too many strikers on the pitch playing out of position and Rooney would sit deep the same as Dier, meaning there was a large gap in the midfield.

I think that the pre-tournament friendlies are there to ensure that the manager knows and understands his best 11 for the tournament ahead. This also requires a plan B for when the starting line-up isn’t doing what it was set up to do and therefore requires a change. We did see that against Wales when Vardy and Sturridge came on to score, but I still felt that these two players were playing out of position and felt alien of what they were being asked to do.

In contrast, again look at Wales and their team knew exactly the formation they were playing and where players would be on the pitch. Gareth Bale has a free role, the full backs would get up and down the pitch whilst the midfield 3 would rotate and create space allowing Ramsey to join in the attack. Even when making substitutes Chris Coleman’s side knew how the substitutes would fit into the team and change the dynamic into the way they wanted. Although they have a superstar in Gareth Bale, his tournament was very humble and he played for the team, not for himself which is something Cristiano Ronaldo has been criticised for.

Overall, England were thoroughly disappointing and Wales had everyone dreaming of winning. Obviously these aren’t the only problems that occurred throughout the tournament but points that I felt were prominent and stood out.

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