Following the first round of matches in Group B and ahead of the big one between England and Wales in Lens on Thursday, we at Champions Speakers spoke exclusively to former Tottenham, Portsmouth and QPR manager Harry Redknapp about England’s chances and former Manchester United and Wales midfielder Clayton Blackmore on his country’s hope for the tie.
Both were fairly impressed with how their country performed in the first round of matches, with England having to settle for a point after conceding a late equaliser against Russia and Wales coming out 2-1 winners over Slovakia in a hard fought tie at the Stade de Bordeaux.
“I thought England played well,” Harry told us.
“We dominated the game for 89 minutes so it was of course a shame to concede so late as we could easily have won by a good two or three goals had we been a bit more clinical in front of goal.
“Russia are a very poor team. They are old and slow; a very poor outfit and I can’t see them qualifying. They had very little to offer and are one of the weakest teams I’ve seen in an international tournament for a long time.”
On Wales’ opening win, Clayton said, “It was fantastic, and to be the first British club to win their first game in a Euro Championship finals at our first appearance is brilliant.
“It was very important to get the win, with England and Russia drawing, and have those three points on the board.
“Slovakia did play well and we had a bit of good luck along the way but deserved the win in the end. They do say you make your own luck though and I think Ben Davies with his sliding block off the goal line set us up for the rest of the game.”
The two sides face each other next in a hugely important fixture, and Harry told us he was excited ahead of the game on Thursday.
“I’m really looking forward to it. They have some really good players, of course there’s Gareth Bale, but I also think Ramsey is an outstanding player. I’m a big fan of Williams at centre half too as he’s big, strong and a good leader.
“I do like the look of the Welsh team and I think they’ll qualify from the group, but I think England will be too strong in this one.”
Clayton was optimistic about his country’s chances in Lens with the players being full of confidence after their performance in the Slovakia game.
“I never played against England when I was playing for Wales but on the last couple of occasions we’ve played against them I remember Wales being fairly poor.
“I hope they perform better on Thursday but I think if England can contain Gareth Bale and keep him quiet, we may have some problems.”
With plenty of talk in both camps about team selection and the potential for changes to both sides, Harry and Clayton thought the teams would probably set up in much the same fashion as they did in the first round of fixtures.
“I wouldn’t change anything from the way we set up against Slovakia,” Clayton said.
“I’d keep the same shape too but obviously Joe Ledley came on and helped set up the goal, however there’s no way he can be 100% fit yet. To come back so quickly from a leg fracture, it’s quite remarkable that he’s there at all.
“There’s Robson-Kanu too who obviously came on and grabbed the winning goal on Saturday. He’s strong, quick and can get in behind defences so there are some good options for Chris Coleman to consider.”
Harry told us that he doesn’t think Roy Hodgson will make any changes to his starting 11 either, adding, “There has been talk of leaving Sterling out, but how do you balance the team?
“The way they play with wing backs should mean that our full backs, who love to get forward, can cause problems. We should be able to get in two against one situations all day long.”
With the tournament in full swing and almost all teams now having played their first round of fixtures, Harry and Clayton had their thoughts on who could do well and come out on top in the final on July 10th.
“I still think England have got a good chance,” Harry told us.
“Spain keep the ball great, France will be right there and Belgium have got the players so could do well. You also can’t forget about Germany in the big tournaments.”
The German side were the favourites in Clayton’s eyes, with him adding, “You can’t look past Germany who are the World Cup holders and have a very strong side. They pass the ball so well and are going to score goals.
“France could do well too with home advantage, and I’d like to see them progress as they are due some good luck after the events of recent months.
“I’ve said before the tournament started that I could see a France vs. Germany final, but maybe we could get England vs. Wales, you never know!”
There’s no doubting that the final whistle at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis on Thursday afternoon should give us all a much clearer idea on the possible outcome of Group B and the prospects for both England and Wales as Euro 2016 progresses over the coming weeks.