After England lit the World Cup touch paper last Monday with a stunning 6-2 win over Iran, the Three Lions stuttered against the USA on Friday night yet remain top of the group still needing something when they play Wales on Tuesday evening in what is being dubbed The Battle of Britain as a fully-fledged World Cup derby.
Gareth Southgate's Three Lions got off to the perfect start in their first game hammering six goals past Iran and sending a message to the rest of the World Cup trophy hopefuls that the Semi-Finalists of 2018 in Russia mean real business again in 2022 with Jude Bellingham opening the scoring, Bukayo Saka scoring twice and Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish all getting on the scoresheet to blow Carlos Queiroz's men away:
That huge win raised the expectations of the entire nation back home and the familiar refrain, 'Its Coming Home' was soon all over social media, on the radio & in the bars in England as once again belief in the national football team - which had dissipated despite the Euros 2020 Final appearance after poor results last summer and in the Nations' League - began to flow once again.
Yet on Friday night, Southgate's unchanged team fluffed their lines against the USA, drawing 0-0 and were second best looking lacklustre against an American team that pressed them hard, limited clear-cut chances and frustrated the Three Lions all game.
Collecting another point for the draw, England are still top of Group B with four points from a possible six so far and are in control of the group and their own destiny yet they must face a Wales side who will do everything in their power to beat them knowing that only an unlikely big, four goals plus win over The Three Lions will guarantee their own progression to the knock-outs although they'd love to beat their neighbours anyway.
That derby element to the Battle of Britain game isn't lost on the England players by any means with Luke Shaw mentioning the Welsh squad's celebration of England being knocked out of Euro 2016 to Iceland as an added incentive to an already big game on Tuesday:
"I think you could say that (provides extra motivation). Of course it wasn't nice. I think we are a respectful group. We do things in the right way." Luke Shaw
Yet wanting revenge and exacting it are two different things and England must be at their best to put a Wales side - who are looking to spoil the party - to the sword in the same manner they shredded Iran to send shockwaves through their World Cup rivals.
England skipper Harry Kane is desperate to play and lead the line for his country once again yet on Friday's evidence he isn't fit to play to his usual level so The Three Lions will be better off playing a fully-fit energised, striker and I would go with Callum Wilson.
Newcastle's no. 9 Wilson has had more than his own fair share of injuries but there's few better in The Premier League & world football when he's fit & firing on all cylinders and his six goals in 11 Premier League games this season have helped propel Eddie Howe's Magpies to third place in the English top flight with strikes against fellow Champions League and title Man City and Spurs especially important.
Typically, Wilson scored on his England debut against the USA in 2018 & would have fancied doubling his Three Lions' total had he been unleashed from the start on Sunday instead of the struggling Kane, who got a knock on his ankle in the Iran game to compound an existing injury problem that has required an operation his hectic schedule hasn't allowed him to have.
Naturally Kane wants to play as he bears down on Wayne Rooney's All-Time England scoring record of 53 but with Wilson leading the line, England will have genuine pace again at the top of the pitch & a player who knows how to press, hold the ball up & set up team-mates like he did with Jack Grealish against Iran and, most importantly of course, score goals.
One man who agrees, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Wayne Rooney himself...:
Rotation, Rest and Maximising Substitutions Will Be Important In The Qatar Heat
As well as Kane's static performance against the USA, the wingers and attackers supporting him Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka as well as no. 10 Mason Mount were also disappointing and well below the standards they had set in the super Iran win.
Credit to America for their energetic pressing performance yet the unchanged England team that turned up on Friday night was not the same Three Lions that had wowed against Iran and whether its due to conditioning or conditions in Qatar, clearly refreshing and rotating the squad could be crucial in the first World Cup to be played in the desert.
The heat combined with the high-octane nature of modern football that burns players out quicker than ever means utilising the talented England squad fully by both rotating team selection and regular substitutions within games will keep key players fresh.
Switching players particularly in attacking positions and bringing in the likes of Wilson, Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford will make England's attack less predictable and tournament football is not the time to keep an unchanged line-up when 26 of the country's best talents are desperate to make an impact & should be given a chance.
Gareth Southgate may still have misgivings about Foden after the young player blotted his copybook on an England trip to Iceland along with the disgraced Mason Greenwood earlier in his international career yet its more likely to be the fact Foden is yet to truly shine while wearing The Three Lions' strip after failing his audition in the first game of The Euros against Croatia and not setting the world alight in The Nation's League either.
Gary Neville raved about Foden on ITV tonight insisting he has the X-Factor and would get in any midfield in the world including Brazil's...
and with England crying out for some extra creativity and flair and that ability to switch gears and dribble past an opponent that Foden possesses, expect to see him soon.
Marcus Rashford has been back on his top form as well as he demonstrated scoring with almost his first touch after coming on against Iran with a superb turn and finish for the third fastest goal in a World Cup by a substitute - just 49 seconds - so I would unleash him on the right of Wilson and beat Wales with sheer pace.
Wales' Galactico Gareth Bale has rejected the notion that defeat by England could spell his last game for his country and talked about delivering another World Cup shock..
Yet the odds are against The Welsh Dragons being able to live with their Three Lions counterparts and no matter what team Gareth Southgate puts out, if England play with the energy and intensity of Monday they will win the group and qualify with style.
Prediction - England 4 Wales 0