Praised as heroes one minute and heckled as failures the next, England’s players have already had quite the World Cup experience in Qatar, though the Three Lions can rubber-stamp their place in the knockout round of the competition with a point on matchday three.
Their opponents, Wales, must win today’s all-British battle at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium and hope that Iran and USA draw in Group B’s other encounter to join England in the next phase.
Below, you can dive into our stats pack for this evening’s crucial clash which should give you the brass tacks on shots, shots on target, xG, cards, corners, fouls and more from the teams’ World Cup qualification and group matches. If you need some advice about how best to use the info below, then my Stats Pack Guide should steer you straight.
First-choice stopper Wayne Hennessey sits today’s game out through suspension following his red card against Iran for a challenge on Mehdi Taremi. Danny Ward will replace Hennessey between the sticks.
The Dragons’ star players Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey were both off-colour against Iran, provoking calls for one or both to be dropped today, however, expect Bale and Ramsey to make Robert Page’s XI again.
England supporters and pundits alike have been clamouring for Phil Foden to start this evening, though the Man City starlet – who has seen just 15 minutes of action at the World Cup so far – might have to be content with a place on the bench again.
Ineffectual pair Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were the first to be hooked after 69 minutes against USA last Friday and their places in the XI could be under threat from Jack Grealish and Jordan Henderson.
Wales’s second-half performance against USA on matchday one sparked genuine optimism about their qualification chances, though the Dragons were well and truly slain by Iran on Friday.
Robert Page’s charges were reliable at the back during their qualification surge when they conceded just 1.0 goals, 1.37 xG and 3.90 shots on target against per 90, though their defensive solidity dissolved in alarming fashion against Iran, who clocked a huge 21 attempts in their 2-0 win.
The attacking spark that burned so brightly for England against Iran seemed to fizzle out completely against USA on matchday two and the Three Lions mustered a measly eight attempts against their counterparts from across the Atlantic.
England made mincemeat of all and sundry during their World Cup qualification campaign when they averaged 3.9 goals per game, though the lack of imagination in the final third that scuppered their Nations League chances in the summer seemed to rear its ugly head again against the Americans.
Gareth Southgate’s side lodged just three corners and an xG of only 0.92 against USA and both figures fell way below previous standards.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Wales pushed their shot tally into double figures against Iran, however, just three of their efforts were accurate. Striker Kieffer Moore (two) and wing-back Neco Williams (three) were the only Dragons players to rack up two or more attempts overall.
Seven of USA’s ten shots against England were provided by players in wide positions, which suggests Williams, along with fellow flank operators like Brennan Johnson and Daniel James (if the latter two feature) could be worth tracking today.
Gareth Bale was head and shoulders above his teammates during qualifiers in the shooting department, though the veteran, who has been deployed very centrally, has looked a little lost so far.
England’s forwards had a field day against Iran on matchday one making their massive drop-off in performance against USA all the more difficult to explain.
Of the eight attempts racked up against the Stars and Stripes, Harry Kane and Mason Mount hit four each, while Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, John Stones and Harry Maguire chipped in with one apiece. Maguire consistently delivers the goods in the shot market for England thanks to his prowess from set plays and he could be worth including again today.
Raheem Sterling, who hit 2.42 shots per 90 during England’s qualifiers, has found the going tougher in Qatar where his output has fallen off a cliff (0.66 p/90).
Player Goals and Assists
National treasure Gareth Bale was Wales’s leading marksman during qualification and the 33-year-old dispatched the Dragons’ only goal in Qatar so far from the penalty spot against USA.
Wales are one of just a handful of teams at the World Cup yet to score from open play, though Kieffer Moore has looked the likeliest to snap that run. The Bournemouth striker has lodged a non-penalty xG figure of 0.90 (p/90) so far, which is considerably more than the next-best performer for that metric, Ben Davies (0.30).
England’s qualification hotshot Harry Kane still hasn’t broken his duck in Qatar, though Bukayo Saka (two), Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham have. Kane will be desperate to rediscover his lethal touch against Wales today after he missed a couple of big chances against USA.
With two assists, Kane has been England’s chief creative force though Luke Shaw’s crossing has been causing opponents numerous problems too. The 27-year-old has posted more shot-creating actions (six) than any other England player in Qatar and he could add to his single assist soon.
Wales will expect to be under the cosh at times today and three of their more defence-minded players jump off the page at possible card options against England.
Centre-half Chris Mepham has committed more fouls (four) than any other Welsh player in Qatar so far and he could add to his single booking this evening. Ethan Ampadu – who saw yellow twice in qualification fixtures – hasn’t been carded yet, though his foul count (three) suggests that first caution could be forthcoming.
Elsewhere, Neco Williams gave away two free kicks against Iran and he should be up against it when he marks the increasingly influential Bukayo Saka today.
Jack Grealish has brought his unique ability to draw fouls from England’s qualifiers to the World Cup itself, though he remains an impact sub for Southgate and it’s better to look elsewhere for alternatives.
You could start with Mason Mount, who has been fouled six times in Group B so far. Gladiatorial Welsh midfielder Ethan Ampadu should be after his former Chelsea academy teammate today.
Harry Kane (fouled 2.29 times per/90) should have Chris Mepham’s presence to deal with while Bukayo Saka (1.80) can use his pace and silky touch to trouble Neco Williams down England’s right wing.
Match-Ups to watch
Chris Mepham vs Harry Kane
Ethan Ampadu vs Phil Foden
Neco Williams vs Marcus Rashford
Remarkably, England are the only nation from the 32 competing at the World Cup yet to pick up a card and only three sides (France, Brazil & Germany) have been committing fewer goals per game on average (9.0).
That makes it tricky to identify possible candidates for bookings in the Three Lions’ ranks, though Kieran Tripper, Harry Maguire and John Stones look like your best possibilities at a push.
Tripper could face Wales’s most-fouled player during qualifiers on his flank (Harry Wilson), while the central-defensive pairing of Maguire and Stones will need to work in tandem to limit the impact of Kieffer Moore and Gareth Bale. Maguire and Stones have committed five fouls between them in Qatar.
Gareth Bale was halted in his tracks five times in two Group B appearances and the 33-year-old will hope to isolate Harry Maguire in a foot race today. Beside Bale, the burly Kieffer Moore (fouled 1.58 times p/90) will be aiming to drag John Stones into the kind of physical tussle that will suit the Bournemouth forward.
Harry Wilson (fouled 2.61 times p/90) is a solid technician and he has enough in his locker to invite challenges from Kieran Tripper. Tripper has been averaging 2.5 tackles per game for England in Qatar and no Three Lions player has averaged more.
Match-Ups to watch:
Declan Rice vs Harry Wilson
Harry Maguire vs Gareth Bale
John Stones vs Kieffer Moore