Belfast Telegraph

England v Wales: Actions speak louder than words - Roy Hodgson

England boss unperturbed by Welsh fighting talk

By Mark Ogden

There has been no shortage of background noise to England's 102nd meeting with Wales, so it was appropriate that Roy Hodgson's initial response to Welsh "fighting talk" at his pre-match press conference here in Lens was drowned out by the rumbling of the TGV as it raced past the Stade Bollaert-Delelis.

Once the Parisian express train had gone, however, it was clear that Hodgson was having none of the incendiary comments, largely from the Welsh talisman Gareth Bale, about English passion and commitment.

His team may go into this Group B fixture, as Hodgson concedes, under greater pressure to claim three points, but the simple message from the England manager was that talk is cheap and events on the pitch will dictate the outcome.

"It surprises me that people are focusing on the talking," Hodgson said. "If we really took it seriously, thinking about what people in the other team are saying, and allowed it to affect our concentration, we'd be very ashamed of ourselves.

"I'm surprised those questions are coming our way. Talk is talk. Action on the field is action on the field. We're perfectly satisfied with the passion we bring to our games, and we don't doubt our passion, desire or commitment, or our wish to do well in the tournament. If others think they're better at it, it's fine by me. But it's not worthy of comment."

With qualification matters complicated by Slovakia's 2-1 victory over Russia yesterday, England captain Wayne Rooney insists there is more to the game than British bragging rights and that stopping Bale is not the only objective.

"It's an important game for us, three points up for grabs, and it's important we get them," Rooney said.

"But you'll have to ask the Wales lads what they mean by their comments, because they've come out with them. We're just focused on preparing for the game. Bale is a fantastic player, but Wales have a lot of good players in their team, so it's not England versus Bale. It's England versus Wales and we have to stop a lot of their players."

Hodgson will join Sir Walter Winterbottom and Sir Bobby Robson with the unenviable distinction of overseeing six successive tournament games without a victory if England fail to defeat Wales. But after being impressed by his team's performance during Saturday's 1-1 draw with Russia in Marseille, Hodgson is ready to stick with his starting XI and take on a Wales team he expects to stick to their usual game-plan of relying heavily on Bale.

"It was a good performance for 92 minutes [against Russia]," Hodgson said.

"The last minute took away the result we were desperately hoping for and deserved.

"That's football, things happen, but I was satisfied with the team and I have been satisfied with the performances of the other players in training and those who came on the other night. I'm satisfied with everything that's gone on so far. The only blot on the horizon was the victory being taken away from us in the last minute of the game.

"But we must now face Wales and I believe they will play as they have for a long time, and very successfully. We don't anticipate any vast changes in their style of play or personnel.

"We won't be surprised by their line-up or what they try and do when they have the ball or don't. But they know our players, too, so we can't spring surprises."

Belfast Telegraph