It was the one opponent Wales fans will love to hate, drawn against England in Group B of the Euro 2016 finals in France. The ‘old enemy’ as they are affectionately known amongst the Welsh faithful, there is as much intensity to this fixture as there is to the historic Scotland vs England fixture.
Euro 2016 Group B: Wales to take on England
Wales will be reasonably happy with their opponents in Group B despite the selection of England; fixtures against Russia and Slovakia will be far more appealing prospects for Chris Coleman and his band of Welsh Dragons. The Russians are currently 24th in the FIFA World Rankings after a successful qualification campaign which saw them finish second in Group G behind Austria and above Sweden in third place.
Slovakia will be the underdogs, reaching their highest ever FIFA World Ranking of 25 in June 2015, now sitting in 28th, the lowest ranked side in Group B with England (ninth), Wales (17th), Russia (24th) followed by Slovakia.
Roy Hodgson and Chris Coleman both spoke to the BBC regarding the draw, Hodgson told BBC Sport: “I feel good about it. We know all the Wales players, but what we know most of all is their team is very organised.”
Coleman said: “It will be a great game, it is two good teams.
“England are one of the best teams. We looked at it and would have wanted to avoid it, but we look forward to it.”
odgson added: “We are very pleased. Wales have done so well, and whichever of the teams we got in that pot it would be tough. Why not have a tough one close to home?
“In Aaron Ramsey, Ashley Williams and Gareth Bale, they have three really top-class players. We have a lot of respect for Wales.
“Slovakia and Russia are interesting. I’ve not come across either of those two teams in my international career – which is unusual given how many matches we play.
“They are two newcomers on my CV but we respect them and it will be a question of doing plenty of research now.”
Coleman was buoyant about his sides’s hopes of reaching the last 16, explaining: “When you get to a tournament it’s about the 90 minutes on the day and you have to get it right. It does not matter who you play.
“Slovakia had some great results, and Russia are Russia. You just have to prepare yourselves in the same way.
“We’re in a group with some hot competition. But that is why we are here, we deserve to be here and the tournament will be a fantastic one.”
With Wales buoyant for their first qualification in a major tournament in one 50 years, overcoming the likes of Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Cyprus and minnows Andorra to finish second in Group D, Coleman and his backroom staff will no doubt be relishing the opportunity to at least take second place in Group B to advance from the group stages to the finals, whilst also savouring the opportunity to take on neighbours England in France. Here are Wales’ fixtures for the tournament Group stages:
Saturday 11th June: Wales v Slovakia
Thursday 16th June: England v Wales
Monday 20th June: Russia v Wales
Read thoughts on Wales’ World Cup qualification chances against their group opponents.