Euro 2016: Is this the start of Roy Hodgson's game plan?

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Highlights: England 2-1 Wales

England claimed they would do their talking on the pitch after a week of verbal grenades hurled in their direction by Wales - but it took until the dying seconds of this Euro 2016 encounter for Daniel Sturridge to have the final word.

When Sturridge fired in a winning goal at Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey's near post with seconds left, the wild celebrations reflected the mixture of delight and relief in England's camp, as well as the weight that had been lifted off their shoulders.

Wales, a fiercely-disciplined and resilient unit, led at half-time to leave England and manager Roy Hodgson looking at ignominy. It was a fate they managed to avoid. A 2-1 victory sent England to the top of Group B; progress to the knockout stages is in their hands.

So what shape are England in after securing their first win at Euro 2016?

Do England know their game plan?

Hodgson faced the most crucial 15 minutes of his England career at half-time. His players left the pitch at the interval to the sound of jeers from their own fans, as they trailed 1-0 to a Gareth Bale free-kick that keeper Joe Hart allowed to slip in.

England's manager, so often damned with the label of caution, had to act. He decided it was time to blow the doors off as opposed to picking the lock.

Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling were removed from their struggles, allowing Jamie Vardy and Sturridge to come on. The move was a success as they scored the goals that won the game.

All well and good - but England head to St-Etienne for their final group game against Slovakia on Monday with questions still being asked about whether they really know their game plan.

There have been switches aplenty of late. After two years of qualifiers, England started Euro 2016 with Wayne Rooney in midfield, and with Sterling making a surprise return - a decision that must now be ditched after his struggles against Wales.

Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling was unsuccessful in any of his dribbles against Wales

Even before the tournament kicked off, there had been decisions that raised eyebrows. Kane and Vardy scored 49 Premier League goals between them last season, yet were used as hopelessly misplaced wingers in England's final Euro 2016 warm-up game against Portugal. In response, Hodgson introduced Adam Lallana along with Sterling for Saturday's 1-1 draw against Russia. Vardy was out altogether.

Against Wales, Hodgson retained Sterling and Lallana. With things not going England's way, the manager could have added finesse to his midfield with the introduction of Jack Wilshere at half-time. Instead, Vardy and Sturridge got the call.

It is impossible to criticise a manager who takes the brave decision - one many would say is out of character - and wins. There was, though, a definite whiff of desperation about this latest England reinvention. Vardy and Sturridge started up front together against the Netherlands in a friendly last season - but in a football context, they are total strangers.

Here they were asked not just to make acquaintances but to save England's Euro 2016 campaign and with it, if the brutal judgement is to be made, Hodgson's job. He had to act at half-time because that sound you could hear was the clock ticking on his time with England.

And when 18-year-old Marcus Rashford arrived as a 73rd-minute substitute, it seemed as if England were going for the sledgehammer approach, throwing as many forwards on as possible and hoping for the best.

It will have brought relief to plenty when Sturridge scored and the policy was vindicated.

It was ambitious but also chaotic as England ended with Vardy, Sturridge and Rashford as attackers supplemented by Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli - and it worked.

England have been planning meticulously for Euro 2016. For every manager at a major tournament, such plans can be pushed down another road by injuries and fluctuations in form. There has been little evidence, though, that Hodgson knows exactly what his best team is.

For any gripes that may exist, Hodgson deserves total credit for being bold and positive when it really mattered. But England still seem to be flying around France by the seat of their pants.

England's passion play

England won a game at a major tournament for the first time having been behind at half-time

Passion is arguably the most over-used word in football - as if fist-pumping and bulging eyes can somehow compensate for a shortage of talent.

Real Madrid forward Bale, Wales' talisman, suggested in the build-up to Thursday's game that England lacked this apparently priceless commodity, so he may just have cast a regretful glance in their direction as they celebrated Sturridge's winner.

Coach Gary Neville sprinted down the touchline to leap aboard a pile of players mobbing the match-winner, joined by both the substitutes and those who had been substituted.

Goalkeeper Hart, the most relieved man inside Stade Bollaert-Delelis after his error for Bale's goal, dashed the length of the field. Wayne Rooney blew kisses into a television camera and manager Hodgson wheeled around punching the air in elation.

It does not make England a great team. It does not make them potential Euro 2016 winners. But it does make a nonsense of Bale's claims that they had less passion than Wales.

What should Hodgson do now?

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Bold England attack paid off - Roy Hodgson

The temptation must be for Hodgson to leave what was eventually a winning formula in place - and start Sturridge and Vardy up front against Slovakia ahead of Kane and Sterling.

Before the Wales match, Hodgson was questioned about Kane's jaded and laboured performance and Sterling's sub-standard effort against Russia.

He brushed off suggestions that Tottenham striker Kane was tired, and talked up the display of Manchester City's £49m attacker Sterling, in what amounted to a verbal massage.

The pair only lasted 45 minutes against Wales. There should be some sympathy for Kane as he lacked support and service but Sterling looked shorn of confidence, missing a simple chance and drawing the ire of England fans with a slow reaction to challenges which saw him lose a fight for possession.

Sturridge and Vardy scored England's goals and were a threat. Now it is up to Hodgson to find a formula that can make them work in tandem with Rooney.


Wales still right in the hunt

Gareth Bale is the first Wales player to score against England since Mark Hughes in 1984

Wales will have returned to their base in Dinard on Thursday in desperate disappointment after this defeat and the manner in which they lost.

There was a real air of optimism around the Welsh camp before the game, but they were condemned to their 67th loss in 102 games against England and remain without a win against the old enemy since 1984.

Wales were talking big in the build-up and while some of the confidence may have turned out to be misplaced, it was genuine.

It is this iron belief, plus the possession of a world-class player in Bale, that should help Chris Coleman's side recover swiftly before their final game against Russia. They need to win to make absolutely sure of reaching the last 16 and it is not beyond them against a poor side.

If there is an obvious flaw in the Welsh make-up it is, on occasions such as this, the lack of true quality around Bale.

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Wales 'gutted' after defeat to England

Bale was quiet in Lens and cannot be expected to do it all alone. Hal Robson-Kanu was game and ran himself into the ground, but what would Coleman give for some extra class in attacking positions?

Defeat by England was a setback but Wales have a chance to recover and no-one should back against them doing exactly that.

Peace breaks out in Lens

England fan
This was the 102nd meeting between England and Wales but the first in a major tournament

After the violence and dark headlines about hooliganism and unrest at Euro 2016, this was a day when peace broke out inside Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens.

England's fans had been involved in the violent scenes and disturbances in Marseille before the game against Russia last Saturday and were also charged by opposing supporters inside Stade Velodrome.

And when more than 30 people were arrested in Lille on the night before this game, the signs were ominous.

Road blocks were in place five hours before the game amid highly visible security measures, while the day had started with a lengthy torrential downpour that forced the early starters in Lens to take cover. But when the sun came out, the spirit was also warm.

England and Wales supporters mingled without any problems before the game and when the action was about to begin, both national anthems were sung unhindered. To this eye-witness, the behaviour of both sets of fans was impeccable.

Wales fans
Wales scored with their first shot on target against England

The old rivalry took place on the pitch but off it all was calm. One rousing rendition of the Welsh anthem even drew applause from some clad in the white of England.

After the match, England fans gathered at a nearby bar and restaurant to celebrate. Any verbal exchanges with their Welsh counterparts were good-natured. This was one of the good days of Euro 2016 so far.