England will have to be wary of much more than Gareth Bale when they take on Wales at Euro 2016, according to head coach Roy Hodgson.
With the Welsh qualifying for the Finals alongside Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, there was always every chance that England would be pitched against familiar opposition in Saturday’s draw for the tournament. And indeed this was the case, when they were paired in Group B with Chris Coleman’s side, along with Leonid Slutsky’s Russia and Jan Kozak’s Slovakia.
Hodgson’s side will begin their campaign against the Russians in Marseille on June 11, and finish in St Etienne nine days later when they take on the Slovaks. But it is the match in between – against Wales in Lens – which has whet the appetite, but the national boss has warned any expectant supporters that Coleman has much more than Real Madrid’s Bale at his disposal.
“If people are going to tell me that Wales are a team who relies on one man then I don’t accept that – you can never build a team around one player,” said Hodgson. “I’ve been very, very impressed with Wales. I think they have a strong spine. I think Ashley Williams has done a magnificent job at centre-half. And they also have very a good goalkeeper in Wayne Hennessy.”
Although it is the home nation encounter which has caught the attention, Hodgson is also aware that their other two opponents should not be taken lightly. “We must respect our other opponents too,” he added. “Slovakia is a country I like and admire which had a fantastic qualifying campaign. Russia is a team I have met in my career, but they qualified well and are a threat.”