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England v. Wales Thread

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Pretty simple for England here. A win and they'll only need a draw against Montenegro next month to secure passage to their assuredly underwhelming performance in Polkraine next summer. That's how these things work. They looked pretty stout against Bulgaria, and one would think Wales at home should provide less and less of a challenge. But the press loves to hype these intra-Britain battles, so once again Gareth Bale has been turned into the second coming of the lovechild of Maradona and Cruyff and will redefine the sport this afternoon. Despite the fact that not even two weeks ago Chris Smalling basically had him in his pocket and will probably do so again. Was Pablo Zabaleta overly worried about him in the last round of Premier League fixtures? Yeah, don't remember that either.

Not much Liverpool involvement in this one. Stewart Downing looks likely to start on the left, but Andy Carroll will be on the bench. Craig Bellamy will probably start for Wales on the other side, who did jump up and bite Montenegro at home on Friday night to give England a huge boost. They'll be up for it, but I doubt this amounts to much of a match. However, if England don't score early, and the normally pretty fickle New Wembly crowd get restless it could transfer to the players. It has before. And then we can watch Theo Walcott run blindly to the end line and fire a cross over everyone's head, and that includes some of the folks in the first few rows. If Wales had anything in central midfield than the combo of Parker and Barry could be overrun, but they don't. Fabio Capello could opt to bring in Milner for Walcott to neutralize Bale a bit more with Milner's better defensive awareness, but that would seem drastic and cut more pace out of a squad that's short of it anyway.

Feel free to use this as your US-Belgium thread as well, which will be going on at the same time.