After all the dust has settled, the record books will show a 2-1 victory for England over Wales. The winning goal coming deep into that period us Brentford fans know as Jota time to send Roy Hodgson into a jubilant jig from the dugout and, surely, book England’s place in the next round. Elsewhere, Northern Ireland put on a superb performance in beating Ukraine but Germany and Poland drawing 0-0 means Stuart Dallas, Niall McGinn and the yet to appear Will Grigg are going to have their work cut out.
As ever, off field matters dominated proceedings. Whilst the atmosphere at the game seemed a really positive one, the French Police again elected for the tear gas option later in the evening. There has been grotesque footage circulating of England fans taunting refugee children by throwing coins at them or goading them into downing pints for money.
I know our own Billy and Dave from Beesotted have been doing their thing to try and combat some of the negative imagery and disproportionate police reaction but this a new level of low. Likewise, reading the comments of FourFourTwo magazine managing editor Huw Davies, where things sound anything but rosy. Do check out his Twitter feed to get the views of those looking in at the English. It is a trail of unpleasantness and abuse from those supposedly supporting England.
Comments include : “I’m not trying to set or challenge a narrative. Just saying that while we chatted with some nice English fans, majority weren’t” and (when faced with a homeless woman and her child, shouts of ) “What are you doing on the street with a f**king child?” “If you can’t support it, don’t have it.” “You’re a f**king shit mum.” All in a row
As for the game itself, England now top the group after Daniel Sturrridge’s last gasp goal saw manager saw Roy Hodgson channelling his inner Alan Pardew with a celebratory leap from the dugout. Only a point is needed to ensure qualification from the group whilst Wales must now beat Russia to guarantee the same outcome.
It was hard work getting there, though. Gareth Bale’s free kick from distance saw Wales take a half time lead. Joe Hart may be able to keep his shoulders clean but he couldn’t manage a clean sheet, despite getting his hands to the Real Madrid man’s long range effort around the wall. It was a decent strike, make no mistake, but it should have been pushed clear of the post rather than into the goal.
And then Roy went for it. With Jamie Vardy and Sturridge introduced for Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, the difference in bench quality showed. England were able to step it up as Wales attempted to soak it up.
An errant Welsh defender’s flick on saw an otherwise miles offside Vardy grab the equaliser just nine minutes into a one-way second half. And from there the game only had one winner. But would it come? No. Wave after wave of pressure saw resolute defending keep the English team at bay. Despite the best efforts of the inspired subs and marauding Kyle Walker, there was no way through.
And then it happened. With a draw looking odds on, England launched one more attack. The ball fell to Sturridge who, wriggling through the box, was able to slip it through, off and past the Welsh defence for a jubilantly celebrated winner. Even Gary Neville joining Roy in the excitement. Such was the communal outpouring of triumph I half expected John Terry to join in.
Tough luck to Wales. Well done to England. Cue the inevitable post match celebrations and exhortations from Gary Lineker, who this season seems to have forgotten he ever played for anybody but Leicester City. It was all about Vardy and his first team. Tottenham? Barcelona? Nagoya Grampus Eight? At least one of those three has players involved.
Gary in his Grampus Eight days…
As for the ex-Brentford contingent, everybody from Jonathan Douglas to Charlie Lawson (TV’s Jim McDonald) was bigging up the boys from Northern Ireland. They battled the elements and Ukraine to secure a stunning victory, despite the absence of Will Grigg. Germany have done them no favours with that 0-0 but still an incredible moment that culminated in an incredible dance from ‘Big’ Jim to out Pardew even Roy.
On a day that saw Roy’s rolls (of the dice) lead England to victory, how apt to see another Corrie connection celebrating a different one.