England will face one of the best players in the world today when they take on Wales at Euro 2016.
Gareth Bale is the Dragons’ standout threat and he showed what he can do by scoring a delightful free-kick in the 2-1 win over Slovakia on Saturday.
Ahead of the game, Roy Hodgson has come up with a clever - albeit not entirely realistic - way of giving his defenders an idea of what it’ll be like to face Bale.
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Hodgson lined up a friendly against Portugal in the hope of facing Cristiano Ronaldo - who shares a similar style to Bale - but the three-time Ballon d’Or winner was in Ibiza.
So the England boss has had to think outside the box in order to simulate Bale’s threat.
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According to the Mirror, Everton’s Ross Barkley has been used as a Bale impersonator in training sessions. The 22-year-old has been running at England’s defenders, mimicking the Welshman’s direct style.
It’s rather clever thinking from Hodgson and his coaching staff. Barkley doesn’t possess Bale’s extraordinary technique but if there’s anyone in the England squad who comes close to the Real Madrid star when it comes to frame and style, it’s the Everton man.
Robson-Kanu: Bale is the world's best
Chris Coleman will forever insist that his team isn’t reliant on one man but without Bale, Wales are a significantly inferior side. Hal Robson-Kanu, who came off the bench to score the winner against Slovakia, even went as far as to say that Bale has usurped Ronaldo or Lionel Messi - depending on your viewpoint - as the world’s best player.
“It helps when you have the world’s best player in your team,” Robson-Kanu said, per the Mirror. “Maybe moving to Madrid, Ronaldo is deemed as the main man there at the minute. But I think it is time for him to pass on that mantle and Gareth is ready to take that on.
“He has definitely proved his worth there with the competitions he has won since going. His level of performance has been fantastic too.”
Bale lit the touchpaper
England are looking up at Wales in Group B following their 1-1 draw against Russia. Today’s game will be a spicy affair, intensified after Bale admitted that Wales are more passionate than the Three Lions.
If Bale’s mind games prove effective, and England fail to win a game they are favourites in, it will prove that Hodgson’s team is plagued by an alarmingly weak mentality.
On Saturday, they were undone by Vasili Berezutski’s stoppage-time header. Many blamed Hodgson’s refusal to introduce Jamie Vardy or Daniel Sturridge but blame must also lie in England’s failure to score a second goal.
They can forget about Saturday’s disappointment by beating their neighbours. If they can stop Bale, that task will be a whole lot easier.