With Euro 2016 now upon us, the first home nation action took place on Saturday.
Wales should have conceded an early goal that could have been disastrous. Instead, some superb defensive work from Ben Davies kept the score blank.
With the game entering its eleventh minute, suddenly it was always going to be the moment of destiny for the Welsh number eleven. The moment Gareth Bale struck the free kick, it was heading into the net.
It was fitting that it was the man who finally dragged over that qualification line a nation devoid of tournament football for more than half a century who scored their first Euro 2016 goal.
Comparisons are perhaps inevitable between Bale and his Real team mate Cristiano Ronaldo and it was the type of strike that the Portuguese would have relished. The positioning of the keeper was simply irrelevant to the Welsh.
The Slovakian equaliser when it came was disappointing but inevitable given how they had kept pressing and looking dangerous. Dare it be said that it was almost ‘England-esq’ in its concession.
Cue super-sub Hal Robson-Kanu. The man with no club and a dodgy Achilles scuffed his way into welsh footballing history. Wales deserved it and irrespective of what happens now, they will always have Bordeaux.
The first reaction to England’s starting eleven was a raised eyebrow. The fury at Rooney being picked to start with no Jamie Vardy just proves that some things never change – players are picked for England because of reputation and who they play for.
Form has sweet FA to do with it. It does not matter that Vardy has only just appeared on the international scene nor that Rooney is captain and experience – this year, Shrek has been shocking and Vardy victorious. Just a personal opinion but then that is what it all about.
Rooney went on to prove a very useful addition to England’s midfield. Dier repaid his country for ‘that’ own goal and generally the team that Roy built played much better than they have recently.
But England are, after all, England. Had they grabbed a second which they threatened to do on several occasions it would have been game over. But they did not.
The injury time Russian equaliser was no surprise whatsoever. The national side have made a habit of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory and in that dressing room after the final whistle it must have felt like a loss. Good. The game should have been killed off before the hour.
Overall, England played better of the two sides but of course Wales will be much the happier side.
On Thursday the two sides meet in what could be the match that decides which of the two progress to the next round. On the evidence of the first games, England’s future participation beyond the group stages is by no means certain. Defeat at the hands of a Bale-inspired Wales side will leave England’s fate out of their hands.