It had been billed as a throw back to the old home Internationals, we were told to expect a high paced Premier League style derby, instead, with the exception of a crunching 50-50 between Andrew Crofts and John Terry, and Wayne Rooney hacking Joe Ledley, it was more like a bottom versus top La Liga encounter than a Premier League derby.
Gary Speed rather than opt for a long ball, blood and thunder approach, admirably insisted Wales play the ball out of defense. A fine tactic when you are Barcelona, have ball playing defenders, like Gerald Pique at your disposal and your opponents have been pushed deep. Wales however struggled with this approach, due mainly to the fact that they were pushed very deep at times by England, and that the Welsh back four, with respect, are not the best ball playing defenders you will ever see. This played into England’s hands who pressed with intensity and frequently won the ball in the Welsh half.
As a contest it was effectively over by the 14′ minute and given the gulf between the two sides it would be wrong to read to much into the result. Possibly the most significant thing to come out of the game is that the message that keeping the ball is essential in the International game seems to be getting through. England passed the ball well, for the most part, and the Welsh also attempted to play football. Furthermore the fact that much of the focus was on two young play-makers Jack Wilshire and Aaron Ramsey, shows again a new emphasis on possession football.
This is undoubtedly a long overdue change for England, for whom ball retention has been a consistent week spot. However, whether this is the right approach for Wales results-wise is another question, there are no points given out for artistic merit in football and Wales could certainly have benefited from getting the ball up the pitch and pushing up on Saturday. Nonetheless, as a sign, it is a good thing, tactics and attitudes trickle down from the top to the lower levels. The fact that both Wales and England were attempting to play good football is an indication that the message that British football has to improve technically has been received and acted upon. And this will surely aid the creation of more Ramseys and Wilshires in the future.
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