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The big questions for England and Wales

The big questions for England and Wales

With two group games still to go, the managers of England and Wales have some tricky decisions to make. We look ahead to their next World Cup matches, including their meeting on Tuesday

By Chris Miller, Writer

After an impressive opening win for England and a stirring second-half comeback for Wales, the players and fans will now be focused on the remaining group games. Wales face Iran on Friday morning before England take on the USA that evening – and then the two nations meet in the final match of the group next Tuesday, a huge match between neighbours and rivals in any circumstances, let alone at a crucial stage of the World Cup.


We’ve now got a decent idea of how both teams are shaping up in the tournament and who their key players might be. Wales looked a different side in the second half against the US when they tweaked their approach and replaced Daniel James with Kieffer Moore, but it still required a Gareth Bale penalty to secure a point. 


Meanwhile, early goals meant England didn’t have to maintain high intensity throughout against Iran, and 19-year-old Jude Bellingham more than justified his inclusion – but the Americans pose a different challenge.


We look at the questions the coaches will have to address as they strive to qualify for the second round. There are some crucial decisions ahead… For more about the FIFA World Cup see our complete guide to the tournament.  


Group B matches

Wales v Iran

Friday 25 November, 9.15am, BBC One HD (CH 101) + S4C HD (CH 104/166)


England v USA

Friday 25 November, 6.05pm, ITV HD (CH 113/103)


Wales v England

Tuesday 29 November, 6pm, BBC One HD (CH 101) + S4C HD (CH 104/166)


Should England manage their attacking options?

The Three Lions’ opening match against Iran was a convincing win – but it was also a bruising encounter, with captain Harry Kane among those receiving treatment on the pitch. With England in control, Gareth Southgate was able to take off his entire starting front line of Kane, Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka in the second half. And with the substitutes also performing well – Marcus Rashford scored the fifth goal before Callum Wilson and Jack Grealish combined for the sixth – Southgate knows he can rely on all his forwards.


So should the coach go with the same starters, or protect one or more of them and bring in the understudies? We know from previous tournaments that he likes to stick with the same line-up, but he’ll also want to ensure his players don’t peak early and burn out before the latter stages.


Does Kieffer Moore start for Wales?

Rob Page decided he needed mobility up front against the USA and selected Fulham’s Daniel James to play alongside Gareth Bale. As the Americans dominated the first half, it became clear that this approach had not worked. Enter Kieffer Moore, the 6ft 5in Bournemouth striker whose very presence seemed to send the opposition into their shells, while the midfield upped the tempo and the full-backs pressed forward. Wales were undoubtedly the better team in the second half and got their reward with an 82nd-minute equaliser.


So does Page stick or twist? Iran showed against England that they are vulnerable to speedy, mobile forwards, so it must be tempting to revert to the original plan. If so, perhaps Nottingham Forest’s Brennan Johnson – who looked lively as a sub against the US – would be a better option than the ineffective James. On the other hand, Moore is always a threat…


When will Rob Page risk Joe Allen?

Former Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen may not have played in the Premier League since 2018 but he’s been a crucial part of the Wales team for more than a decade. The trouble is, he’s recovering from a hamstring problem that kept him out of the opener, and selecting him would be a risk – in terms of both his match fitness (he hasn’t played in two months) and potentially aggravating the injury.


The Swansea man’s calm presence in midfield against England would surely help Wales contain the threat of Jude Bellingham and Mason Mount, so there’s an argument that he should be saved for Tuesday. However, Wales need to get to that match with qualification still alive. Ethan Ampadu was excellent against the US, but the 22-year-old would benefit from having the veteran alongside him against Iran. It’s a tough one all right.


Should Harry Maguire continue to start?

Although defender Harry Maguire went through the concussion protocols before departing the pitch in the Iran match, he’s been passed fit to face the USA. That’s good news – as is the fact that Maguire has left his below-par club form back in Manchester, looking composed in defence and offering a constant goal threat from set pieces.


That said, after he reportedly suffered double vision, should Maguire be risked? Eric Dier deputised ably on Monday, and Conor Coady and Benjamin White are also capable replacements. As mentioned, Southgate likes to keep changes to a minimum but if he wants to go all the way in Qatar, it’ll be important to keep his key players in the best possible condition.


Is a change of formation required?

Southgate surprised a few fans against Iran by abandoning the back three he had favoured recently to add an extra player to the midfield. It obviously worked. But while Iran are the oldest squad at the World Cup with an average age of 28.9, the US are the second youngest (averaging 25.2). They’re pacier and more energetic, and England’s manager might take a more cautious approach to contain their threat. That may mean an extra defender with Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier moved into wing-back roles, or it could mean a start for Kalvin Phillips in midfield, perhaps at the expense of Mason Mount.


Page is much more wedded to his back three, partly because of the personnel he has available, but he might want to shake up his midfield – especially since Aaron Ramsey looked rusty against the US. Joe Allen is an option if fit, while Jonny Williams will run all day long for his country, and Cardiff’s mercurial Ruben Colwill is a wild card… Page could ring the changes against Iran and try to get Ramsey ready for the England clash.


Do England need a plan for Gareth Bale?

The Wales captain was a little subdued against the USA – but he stepped up when needed to score the crucial penalty. “He manages himself through games,” Page explained afterwards. “He’s very experienced and clever in managing his body.” Bale insists he’s fit enough to play multiple games according to the World Cup’s demands – and he might just be saving that special performance for the potentially crucial match with England.


So do England need a plan to contain him? After an impressive and confidence-building first match, they may think they’re capable of handling whatever Wales can throw at them – although if the defence have their hands full with Kieffer Moore, Bale could get plenty of opportunities to cause damage. Under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds, Kalvin Phillips was employed as a man-marker on numerous occasions. Could Southgate bring him in to minimise the danger from Bale?  


When is England v Wales on TV?

You can watch England v Wales in the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday 29 November at 6pm on BBC One HD (CH 101) and S4C HD (CH 104/166). For more about the World Cup, including details of all the fixtures, read our complete guide.


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