This match proved (if proof were actually needed) that Roy Hodgson got his team selection wrong for the Russia match and he got his team selection wrong for this game. Inexplicably, he started with the same team that let slip a win in the opening match against Russia, even though the whole country could have told him that Vardy and Sturridge should have started.
It took a goal from Wales, scored by who else but Gareth Bale, from how else but a free kick, for the penny to drop. To his credit, Hodgson made the necessary changes early enough – at half time – to give his subs the maximum time to make an impact. But then it’s funny how the most conservative of people can become emboldened when their job is on the line. What should have been a logical team selection thus became a desperate gamble.
But boy did his gamble pay off! First Vardy, with the predatory instincts of a natural born striker, was standing in the right place at the right time – ie the 6 yard box – to fire home an equaliser. Vardy was though standing in an offside position but luckily for England, the final ball to him came off the head of Welsh captain Ashley Williams so, rightly, the goal stood.
By now Wales had parked a whole fleet of double decker buses in their area, and it looked like England had left it all too little too late. But this tournament has started a fashion for late late goals, and this time thankfully it was England doing the gazumping. It involved a moment of individual brilliance at the death from their other substitute, Daniel Sturridge, who, after an intricate 1-2 with Dele Alli, jiggled his way past a gaggle of Welsh defenders, getting a little lucky along the way as he stabbed the ball past the keeper.
So it is England who get to enjoy the domestic bragging rights – just about. Let’s hope Roy has learnt his lesson. If we can have our best players on the pitch from the start against Slovakia, then there is every chance England can get the 3 points and finish top of their group. Winning consistently involves making brave decisions when you have everything to lose.