Serious Question Marks Against Wayne Rooney & Dele Alli

Well it was another mixed bag for the home nations and Republic of Ireland wasn’t it?

Some truly outstanding performances and some that left more questions than answers ahead of match day three, but maybe one of the legacies of this tournament from Michel Platini was a positive one, namely other than expanding the tournament with great success, the last match day for most of the teams has something on it, making dead rubbers in this tournament a thing of the past, and that gets a big thumbs up from me!

I thought England played very well against Wales overall but huge question marks not over the ability to find the back of the net, but to create clear cut chances for the strikers, whoever they are. Many plaudits will go rightly to Roy for making three attacking substitutions but…

I have serious question marks against Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli at the moment.

Alli looks a little fatigued both mentally and physically – it’s his rookie season so we shouldn’t be too hard on him – but I thought the dynamism we’ve seen so often this season was lacking, and let’s not forget in the position he’s playing in he’s there to be a goal threat, creator and grafter, and against the Welsh I only really saw the latter. Likewise Wayne Rooney, lots of effort, lots of sprayed passes from the centre of the pitch left and right, but little in the way of the incision or advanced positioning that he found against the Russians. Leaving Eric Dier in midfield that leaves England’s three central midfielders taking a collective step back rather than forward, and against better teams that would be a massive worry in terms of forward momentum in games.

As for the big debating points, mostly settled around the front three, I think Roy will stick with Harry Kane as line leader and maybe even Adam Lallana who can operate from either side of a front man, and that may well be the left as Raheem Sterling is struggling. I’m not sure whether it’s the price tag, expectation or just a lack of form after an average Man City season, but he’s the only certainty for me to lose his place, perhaps with Lallana coming from the left and a Milner/Barkley or Sturridge slightly to the right of Kane.

I’d be stunned, stunned if Vardy and Sturridge make the starting line up

…England need an effective impact sub or two and as was proven against Wales sometimes it’s better to have something fresh up your sleeve late on.

As for Wales, I think they need more adventure, Bale obviously higher up the pitch for longer and that maybe would mean sacrificing one of the grafting central midfielders, going 3-4-3 with Bale, Robson-Kanu (who I thought was excellent holding the ball up ) and Jonny Williams as a three, particularly against an ageing Russian back two who wouldn’t know what hit them with the pace of Bale and Williams running at them. I thought the extra grafting midfielder against England made sense perhaps for a half but they struggled in the second period to get out of their own area, so an outlet for them, particularly one with pace is a must against the Russians.

Northern Ireland
So let’s turn to the performance of the round and pound for pound one of the performances of the tournament, from Northern Ireland. I’ve heard so much guff from people in the game who should know better when it comes to doling out cliches about “smaller teams should be happy to be there”, etc etc that you wonder if they’d been involved in the game at at all.

Spirit, belief, passion and national pride at this level of football most certainly fill the technical void if teams are well organised, and Michael O’Neill, a cracking young coach has done that and some. They were poor by their own standards (best record of any nation coming into the tournament) and weren’t aggressive enough, and maybe, just maybe were a little like rabbits in their headlights at the first game pinching themselves that their fine work had landed them in a big time tournament, but against Ukraine who can give a bloody nose to many teams on their day I thought that belief, aggression and risk taking were there for all to see.

What a header by McCauley! A lesson for many strikers, even at this tournament, who are closing their eyes and wiring when the crosses come in, he looked firmly at the ball, planted his forehead on it and as we are taught in heading school, headed it back where it came from. Superb. Can they beat Germany? For me no, Germany have been a little lacklustre so far and need a performance for their own confidence, so i think we’ll have to hope three points are enough. Fingers crossed.

Republic of Ireland
Which leaves only the Republic of Ireland who have a mountain to climb now after being dismantled, to be fair, against the Belgians. I wrote in my pre tournament column that it depended which Belgium turned up as to whether one of my Prem players of the tournament would come good and it looks as though I was bang on the money.

Romelu Lukaku epitomises the Belgium national team at the moment. He looks moody, brooding and as a man that looks as if he’s not particularly enjoying being around a few big names, dare I say big time Charlies in their camp, but as I pointed out pre tournament, if they click, he will benefit and the two superbly taken goals proved that with bells on!

Ireland should undoubtedly have had a penalty for a high foot catching Shane Long but overall the lack of creativity and regular supply line to Long could well hurt the Irish ahead of a game against an Italian side who are organised, give little way at the back and in Eder and Pelle may have unlikely Golden Boot candidates.

I think the Boys in Green will rue not beating a bang average Swedish side,

…and unfortunately that means back to Dublin within a week.

Don’t forget to catch my LIVE periscope videos , my post match England fallout on video and tournament columns and Q&A to come as the tournament heads toward the pointy end!

Come on!!!