England and Wales. A footballing rivalry separated for a long time by contrasting footballing fortunes. While England are used to mixing it with the world’s elite, Wales’ foray to France is their first to an international tournament since 1958. With England and Wales facing each other in Thursday’s Euro 2016 Group B crunch match, Football Tribes has decided to examine YOUR opinions from the past 9 months.
It was of course only 9 months ago that Wales found themselves above England in the FIFA World Rankings. Despite only 33% of pollsters agreeing with the ranking, and the other 67% disagreeing, an enormous 40% of you believed that Wales could win Euro 2016. To put this into context, 55% of you thought that England could win Euro 2016 around this time.
More recently however, as Euro 2016 began to loom larger, a dose of realism seemed to have set in. Fewer polls debating whether Wales could win the competition appeared, with focus shifting onto the more realistic matter of whether Wales would reach the knockout stages of the tournament.
This does not necessarily represent pessimism on behalf of Welsh supporters though. In March, only 22% of you believed that England could win Euro 2016 (a significant decrease of 35% since September). By April and May, this had fallen slightly to 20%. As the tournament has loomed larger in the horizon, there seems to be a more general trend of Football Tribes users perhaps answering polls with greater rationality and realism.
What about head-to-head? Unsurprisingly, the long-term trend has shown greater confidence in England’s chances. Back in November, over half of Football Tribes users (57%) saw England progressing the furthest of all the home nations (and the Republic of Ireland). More recently, in April and May, this has increased to 75% and 60% in two separate polls.
Of course, these polls also took into account both the Republic and Northern Ireland. When asked to directly assess Wales’ chances of finishing above England in Group B, only 10% of responses said this was possible. In fact, only two weeks before the tournament kicked off, Football Tribes found that in two separate polls, 34% and 49% of you believed that Wales wouldn’t even make it out of the group, let alone finish above England.
On the other hand, a poll only last week showed that as little as 12% of users believed that England would fail to progress from Group B. This same poll also showed that a whopping 55% of users thought that England would bow out of the tournament at the quarter final stage, and an impressive 23% thought that England could even reach the semis. Furthermore, when asked who was the most likely ‘dark horse’ to emulate Greece’s 2004 success, 38% of users chose England, along with Croatia – more than Portugal, Sweden and Turkey combined.
Given the very different expectations surrounding the two sides, it would therefore be logical to assume that England would be seen as heavy favourites for Thursday’s clash in Lens. Indeed, two polls on the eve of the tournament showed exactly this: 54% of users thought England would win, 19% favoured the draw, and only 27% thought that Wales could beat England.
However, England’s failure to beat Russia (arguably the worst team at Euro 2016 following their disappointing defeat against Slovakia), coupled with Wales’ victory against Slovakia, seems to have altered your opinions somewhat. Only yesterday, there was little to choose between the two sides’ chances according to you, with Wales being backed to beat England by an impressive 45% of users.
So where does that leave us now, on the eve of these two nations’ most significant meeting in recent memory? England are, perhaps unsurprisingly, still perceived by most as more likely to progress further into Euro 2016. The Anglo-Welsh head-to-head, however, seems to have shifted a bit closer to parity following the opening round of matches, something many would have considered unthinkable when England won in Germany in March.
Whatever the result, Thursday will be one of the most intriguing match-ups of the tournament between two rivals with very different trajectories in public opinion. It will be fascinating to see how the result further alters the views of Football Tribes users.