Wales have the team spirit to reach the final

These Euros have been quite cagey so far and I don’t think the semis will be any different. It’s been a fascinating tournament: the surprise achievements of some teams and the disappointment of some others.

It was great to see Iceland score two goals against France, after doing it against England. That shows it wasn’t a one-off. They’ve been very exciting.

Portugal vs Wales is up first. I’m going for Wales. I think Portugal have been very average. I think Wales have the team spirit.

Aaron Ramsey is missing and that is a big miss, but Chris Coleman has been fantastic and it’s important that the camp don’t talk too much about missing Ramsey. They’ve got a good squad to cope. They don’t want to make it their excuse.

I remember a great story with Bobby Robson, from Mexico ’86, before the Paraguay game. Ray Wilkins was suspended and Bryan Robson had done his shoulder, both against Morocco. Bobby relaxed us nicely and we were feeling really good. Then he said calmly: “Don’t worry about those 60 million people watching at home”. It’s a classic! But he meant it. In a good way!

Bale against Ronaldo will be on people’s minds. Bale will be there for his team. He will win that challenge, Ronaldo will come second.

Germany vs France: everybody might have fancied this for the final and the Germans are so good at getting their tactics right, no matter who is the manager. France have great individuals. This is a manager’s game for me.

The managers will play a massive, massive part. It’s obviously the players who do it on the pitch, but it’ll be about who gets it right on the day. I’ve got to go Germany. They’ve got more options in their group of players for me.

So that means a Germany v Wales final. In 1966, that was a World Cup Final between England and Germany and this could be another home nation, playing Germany in a major final. I’d like to congratulate Wales. Even if they’re not in the final yet! But I think they can get there.

Can Iceland keep their cool? They won’t freeze!

I was really looking forward to the quarter-finals, but with England out it feels gone for me. I was very excited. I hope Wales do well. There’s no judgement for me for how they celebrated England going out, that’s human nature. I was looking forward to England having a really long stay in this tournament. No England players spoke after we went out and that was a bit of a disappointment, in my opinion.

First up is Poland v Portugal on Thursday night. It’s one of those games where if Poland do their job, they should win the game. I think Poland are very organised and very committed. I think they go onto the pitch with the attitude of “we’re not going to lose”. If either team is going to win in in 90 minutes, it’s Poland for me. Portugal have been very average.

For me, in all three group games, Portugal have done nothing to impress me. I don’t think they’ve got that extra step. Ronaldo, for me, has been poor. All he does is put his hands up like he’s moaning all the time. It’s like he’s moaning because he hasn’t got the ball. He hasn’t played a part yet, for me. Against Poland, Portugal are going to find it very hard. Poland’s better attitude on the football pitch will get them through. 2-1 Poland.

Game two is Wales v Belgium on Friday. This game, along with Germany v Italy, are the games that people will look forward to. Wales have been fantastic. On individual players, Belgium are better, but individuals don’t always win you games. I think it will be a tense yet very exciting game. It could be a classic 0-0 after 90 minutes. I get a sneaky feeling that one of the goalkeepers could be outstanding.

It’s obviously fantastic to score first and then it’s up to the management to decide if a side should go for a second goal. That’s where talking comes into it. The first goal is important, but that is where if you score in the first five minutes you should go for the quick second. I think this one will go to extra time.

Will Ashley Williams be fit? Will he last the whole game? That would be a concern for me. Belgium look to be improving all the time. Wales need their first XI to stay on the pitch, for as long as possible.

I think Bale will go out and play hard for his team. Speak to his teammates, encourage them and do what he does for club and country. See if Belgium are willing to give him free-kicks! Ramsey is good at free-kicks too. Both of these two teams have the ability to win this match. It’s the toughest call for me.

I want Wales to win. Chris Coleman has done a terrific job. And I forgive them for their celebrations! I’ll go for a Wales win in extra-time. That’s my heart saying that! My head says, it’s so close! I really thought it could be a Wales v England final. Wales work so hard for each other.

Saturday sees Germany v Italy. I’m surprised that Germany have never beaten Italy in competitive matches, but Saturday can be the day. The Italians are so well organised, but I just see the Germans opening them up. Out of the teams left, Germany are possibly the only team left that could. Germany are loving the occasion. Italy, they don’t do it very often, but I think they might freeze a little bit.

Muller’s still got it. I think Germany will go for it and have that extra little factor. They both have big strikers, in Gomez and Pelle, but I have also been very impressed by the German number 11, Julian Draxler. Some of the things he did, his vision, his dribbling skills. The Germans love going forward and will cause Italy problems form the start. I think Germany will have a plan for how to break Italy down. When the Germans are in the zone, they are very hard to beat for me. I think Germany are going to win 2-0.

The last quarter-final comes on Sunday, France v Iceland. Can Iceland keep their cool? They won’t freeze! I think Iceland will be over the moon with the result over England, but France have so many fantastic individuals. I think the management will say “Just go and perform”. There’s no doubt in my mind that the French will win. I think France have individuals that will turn up on the day.

Only Roy Hodgson knows why our players didn’t turn up on the day, against Iceland. I think that France, if they need to step up, then they can. With the individual strength that France have got, they are going to overpower Iceland. At some stage, it’s got to get to Iceland, especially if France perform the way they can. I think France will win 3-0. It’s an unexpected last eight, but we could have one of the big outsiders possibly winning the tournament.

Just to update, after the first game: I did think Poland could be that surprise team that wins it and I wouldn’t have said that at the start of the tournament. Now, they’re out! I have a sneaky feeling for a Wales v Germany final. I’d love to see Wales win it and I do think england fans would be pleased for them.

It’s good to talk: England were like a silent movie!

My expectations against Iceland were to get an early goal and maybe win 3 or 4-0. That would show our opponents that our earlier results were a bit unlucky. We missed chances in the first three games. Once Iceland scored their goals, we seemed to collapse. It was like a boxing match. We knocked them down and then they got up and knocked us down twice.

I remember playing in 1982, against France in the World Cup. We practised me doing a throw-on and Terry Butcher would flick it on. The goal we got was then on the right, Steve Coppell took the throw-on and Bryan Robson scored after 17 seconds.

England have been criticised for Iceland’s first goal, but you’ve got to give Iceland credit. They felt that they were in the match and it gave them the confidence to score the second goal. But I would criticise us defensively there: Joe Hart should have saved the shot. We should have got a block in, before Hart needed to save the shot. Overall, it was poor defensively.

There is a lot of pressure on players at times. Hart is a fantastic goalkeeper, but both goals were to his left-hand side. Goalkeepers tend to have a favourite side and now Hart appears to have a weakness to his left.

I used to play in goal as a youngster and Gordon Banks was my hero. That famous save he made from Pele, at the 1970 World Cup, was on Banks’s favourite side. I picked that up as a youngster.

I still thought “we can win this” but as time went on I thought “we’re not doing our jobs”. Everyone seemed to look at each other, but not say anything. It was like a silent movie! We all know – not just football, not just sport – there needs to be talking. There was no talking, no arguments. If you put all that together, that’s a major problem for winning a football match.

For instance, when Wayne Rooney first came on the scene, as a 17 year-old, he’d get booked making a silly challenge trying to win the ball back. He’d get criticised, but for me that showed passion. Against Iceland, I didn’t see that in Wayne Rooney.

Rooney did well in the first three games, he controlled the second half against Wales. As the captain, he should start the banter on the pitch, the talking. Terry Butcher would have been shouting “Come on lads!” When the fans go quiet, you know you’re not playing well. I think Rooney’s international future is in the balance, in my opinion.

Joe Hart is a very experienced goalkeeper, but I didn’t hear him shout “Let’s get it forward”. There was no enthusiasm. I’d expect the players on the bench, in the technical area, to get shouting, for something to happen. But the spirit was dead. It was very frustrating watching it.

As a player myself, if I wasn’t doing it, I’d expect Terry Butcher or Bryan Robson to be shouting at me. That’s what every England fan would have been expecting too, but it wasn’t happening.

Me with Glenn Hoddle - in our younger days!

Me with Glenn Hoddle – in our younger days!

The lack of a mid-season break is no excuse. I don’t think there is any excuse for the performance. Every single player must look at themselves and ask “did I do my job”? I think the answer would be “no”, by everyone. That goes for the staff as well.

There’s been talk of the players lacking belief in the management and Hodgson has denied this, but the management should know about that, from the training pitch and around the hotel. You’ve got to learn about people, what gives them that little gee-up. If you do the little things in life, the bad things won’t happen.

You’ve got to know each other. I roomed with Graham Rix and he was quite a close friend with me, during my time with Arsenal and England. He’d know how many sugars I’d want in my tea. We could tell each other where we were going wrong. In the Iceland game, that spirit was vanishing as the game went on.

Hodgson has now gone and the FA has got to make a proper decision, for a manager who can get the best out of the players, which Hodgson didn’t do in this tournament. Whoever they go for, the new manager has got to be honest and open. The FA has to take responsibility too. It’s a massive group effort. If they rush into an appointment, it’s a mistake in my opinion.

I would love to be involved in some way, as I believe I have something to offer. I’m in a very good place now and people keep telling me I have something to offer. I have the knowledge to help. I’ve been studying football and I hope my website has opened people’s eyes. If I can help in any way, I’d love to help.

Gareth Southgate appears to be the current favourite and he coached the England under-21s to win the Toulon Tournament this summer. No disrespect to him, but I don’t think he is good enough to manage the full England international team. I look to the FA to appoint someone with presence, to make players perform, in every international.

We need someone who can get us to focus and know those players, inside out. The staff as well. The staff are just as important as the manager, in my opinion. We need someone with a football brain. ‘Should I start him, or have him as a sub’? The likes of Bill Shankly and Brian Clough had the power to make players perform how they needed. We need someone in that mould, plus the football brain of Terry Venables.

I’m saying Glenn Hoddle, Bryan Robson, Terry Butcher – get them together and between the three of them, they would bring success from the very talented group of players that we have. I know some fans might say “he would say that” and that those three might not be well-regarded as having been successful managers, but I know what they have got.

When you get them together, the FA needs to tell them what they want. The conversation should be intense. Not just an hour, but a lot longer. The FA should get them in a nice restaurant, have a nice meal and a nice chat and get to learn about those people. The FA now has to make the right decision. P.S. if you need any help, just give me a call!

This is just the beginning for England

There was a lot of talk about England changing six players, but Roy obviously felt that he wanted to change the full-backs and we were quite good defensively. He wanted to be a bit more aggressive too, with Wilshere, and I thought he played quite well. But the changes didn’t make any difference to the result. The way Slovakia defended, their fans will be over the moon.

But on the other hand, we qualified. The most exciting thing for me is that I think there are more exciting things to come for us in this tournament. This is just the beginning. When you play in the group stages, you know you need to get through the group. When it’s the knockout stages, you know you have to score to be sure of getting through.

I don’t think this England team will be nervous. The players have experience now. Roy will know that we need to step things up a little bit and put the ball in the back of the net. The experience of the last three games will be fantastic for the players.

When I looked at the team and the performance, I thought the understanding between the lads was very good. There’s improvement needed, to make the special chances, so that Kane and Sturridge and Vardy and Rashford can put the ball in the back of the net. But the players are all aware of what they have to do.

Over the next few days the players will look over the videos and watch the games and talk during training, to try different things. It’s not about fitness now. I don’t think they’ve played badly in any way. I don’t think we played badly against Russia. We could have won three games on the trot. All we have to do is step up, tiny little things. They are all small things, but they are all very important.

The right-backs have been our best players so far. We are an attacking side. Defensively we haven’t had too many problems. We’re getting the full-backs forward, but we need to avoid getting too crowded. We need to allow a little more space around our attacking options. We just need to step up our decisions in the final third. Roy and his coaches need to talk to the players, to help them to learn about each other a little bit better.

You have to work hard on the training ground

You have to work hard on the training ground

Communication and information are very important. I’ve said it from day one – we have the talent to go all the way in this competition. Like in all walks of life, we need a little bit of luck. In all three games, the players have put the effort in. I really feel so confident. I think we have nothing to fear. I’m looking forward to watching the next game. As a squad, if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’re going to go a long way.

Being mentally tired can affect players on the pitch. That’s where the manager and the staff should notice these things in training. If Kane for example looks tired, you have to be honest. “Vardy, you’re playing. Harry, I can see you need a rest”. These things must be picked up very quickly. It’s part of being the manager and the staff to pick these things up. These things give you the edge.

Gary Lineker is a fantastic example. He was a terrible trainer, but he enjoyed playing and enjoyed scoring goals! Tiny things can be massive at international level. At club level, there’s time to know the players. There’s less time to know these things at international level. It’s important for the staff to see if players are happy. You want your international players to go out there full of confidence, ready to do their job.

The whole England squad should feel confident and relaxed. Whoever we get in the next round, they should fear us. They might say “Well, England have only scored a few goals”, but they will be scared about us. Other teams will be worried about us. Roy should say “Go out and do what you’ve been doing in the last three games – and score a few goals!”

There’s been nothing wrong with the last three performances. The England squad we’ve got are good enough to go through to the final of the competition.

This tournament is there for England to win it

The win over Wales was about the result on the day. There must have been a lot of pressure on both teams. The result was outstanding.

There was a lot of unnecessary chat before the game, from the managers and players. Coleman said “it’s just another match”. For me, that’s rubbish. It’s one of the biggest games against your big rivals. I know what it’s like, I made my debut against Wales!

I don’t think Bale’s free-kick was special. He got a lot of power behind it. I don’t think Joe Hart was expecting it. In my opinion, he should have saved it. The work-rate of both teams was exceptional, both sets of fans would have been proud of that.

England were on top before Wales scored. Every single English fan was happy to see Vardy on. It was a great decision to bring on Vardy and Sturridge. Roy would have been thinking “We’ve got to score two goals here”. One goal and you’re on a knife-edge then, it had to be two goals.

The lad Sterling, I’d like to stick up for him a bit. They haven’t given him a job to do, it’s like they sent him out and said “just go and play”. In my opinion, he doesn’t have to beat people, the manager could just tell him to get the ball into the box, as many times as possible.

I don’t think his miss was nerves, he just missed it. He’s got to be told his job. Just get crosses in. He hasn’t done that in either game, which makes me think he hasn’t been told to do that.

The changes made England a better team. Rooney ran the game in the second half, everything came through him. The England team knew they needed to score two. Wales didn’t stop trying, but there was a bit of luck with Vardy’s goal, as some linesmen would have given offside. We took control in the second half and it was a fantastic win for England.

They proved on that day and in the first half against Russia that this tournament is there for England to win it. Looking at other teams and their players, I think we’ve got the best group. And I’d rarely say that! I don’t want to put pressure on the players, don’t get me wrong! I want them to go out and play in the way I can see them performing, in my eyes.

England kept going, they had belief that we could get the second. Rashford showed intelligence for a young kid, with great runs. We had great positivity and if we can keep that going for the whole tournament, what a chance we have.

I think Walker has been fantastic and been a great credit to his team. I was saying during the game “Get it out to Walker”. Wales did their homework and realised what a threat he was and tried to stop him going down that right-hand side. And when Sturridge came on, we became more of a threat down the left-hand side.

Sturridge had that little bit of magic and all of a suddenly he squeezed the ball into the net, despite no space whatsoever. It was a fantastic goal. English fans don’t want be over-confident, but they must be looking forward to Monday’s match with Slovakia. That must be great for England supporters.

My expectation is another tremendous effort from our lads. The team spirit is very good and I expect the same effort as from the last two games, as the same effort will be good enough. I’ve had my say, I’ll let Roy pick the team. Let him pick the team he thinks will do the job. Then there’s no pressure on me! I hope Wales qualify as well, to protect me when I go to Wales!

England prove that tiny things can win you matches

I thought it was a very good England performance against Russia. You rely on individual players doing their job. If eleven players do their job, you become a team.

We made chances to win the game easily. At the end of the day, we didn’t take our chances. If we had, we would have won it.

Walker I thought was outstanding. He was causing so many problems down the right-hand side. As the captain, I’d want us to get the ball to him.

He was great on the night, he showed his class and his experience. I thought maybe we could have got him the ball a bit more.

I thought Danny Rose played very very well. He had Sterling on that side and that stopped him getting forward as much as Walker, but I thought both full-backs played exceptionally well.

I thought Dier played his holding role very well. He passed it, he intercepted, he got back when he needed to. For a young kid, 22 years of age, he showed a lot of calmness, all over the pitch. I’d agree with the TV coverage, he looks a future captain.

In attack, it was obvious to anyone that Kane didn’t have his best game. If Vardy had played, the combination of the two of them would have caused problems for Russia. It would have made it easier for the midfield to get the ball to them. It would have given the midfield more options.

Vardy would have done the running. It was one of those games when Kane couldn’t get involved. I don’t think we got enough into him. The two together, they could have caused the Russians a lot of problems.

Lallana first half was very very good for the team but went a bit dead in the second half. Sterling was very quick, but that’s where you need your captain. Robbo would have said: “When you check back on your right foot, cross it”. If Sterling does that five times in the first half and five times in the second, he’d have done his job.

It’s important that the manager can get his message across to the players. The advantage of a captain on the pitch is to tell players what is expected of them. If the players know the ball is coming in, they can make a run and know they have a chance. That for me was a tiny downside on the performance – and tiny things can win you matches.

Me and former England captain David Beckham, in Arsenal's directors' box

Me with former England captain David Beckham, in Arsenal’s directors’ box

For example, if I let the winger get a cross in and they get a chance, Shilts would shout across at me “Ken, don’t let them get a cross”. My job is to stop that winger getting a cross in, or creating something, for that team.

I talked in my first England blog about having something special in reserve. Something like a planned free-kick to use when you need it, but not to waste it if you’re already winning. At 0-0, we needed something special and Dier came up with it.

I was surprised to see Kane taking so many set-pieces, not just the free-kicks but the corners. He’s a goalscorer. Kane shouldn’t take corners, end of. He should be in the box, getting a bit of space off the defender and knocking the ball into the back of the net. Slovakia got a free-kick against Wales and just took it. I think even the ref was shocked! It doesn’t give defenders time to get ready.

I’d repeat, this is just for the England players and fans: we don’t want the opposition knowing what we have up our sleeve. As an example, when I’m now on stage, if the audience are enjoying me telling my old jokes and people are laughing, I save my new ones! Keep something special, for when you need it. I think my old teammate Glenn Hoddle mentioned this on ITV.

Defending a late lead is difficult, but you mustn’t let balls go into your box. Outside your box, shouldn’t be a problem. Most shots should go wide or over. Nothing is perfect. You can’t stop genius or luck, but you can work at this on the training pitch.

The attitude and the same performance, with a few little touches, would be great against Wales. And don’t give Bale any free-kicks around the box! These are all small things, but all so important.

England can learn from Leicester – and need something special in reserve

I’ve got a good feeling about England’s chances at Euro 2016. At the end of the day, it’s about the players needing to perform and do their job on the pitch.

If all the young talent put their individual ability into the team spirit, we could surprise people. The players can take heart from Leicester’s performances and gel together.

We need to be able to surprise the opposition, because they will look to surprise us. We must be ready. Do not be afraid to try something a bit different on the pitch. That can win you the game.

For instance, if a team have a certain way of playing we must be ready to cope with that and anything else they have that’s a bit unexpected.

We need to be prepared for free-kicks. For and against. For, it’s important to have something up our sleeves when it comes to free-kicks. Against, we must know how to deal with them from opponents and be ready for any surprises.

You need to know when to use something special and when to hold it back. If we are leading 2-0, we do not use our special free-kick. We save it for another day. If we are losing 2-0, we bring our special free-kick into play, to get back into the match and give the opposition something to think about.

Winning is about more than just the team on the pitch. It’s coaches, management, staff, the people watching on the bench. If the kit man has an idea, try it.

The opposition will have been watched. Do we notice any changes? We must get that across to the players as soon as possible. It could be small things, but they might make all the difference.

You need talkers on the pitch to be aware. We need to be aware of where they can hurt you and where we can hurt them. Don Howe used to say this. That’s when the players and the staff become a very big part of the team.

Small things can make all the difference

Small things can make all the difference

Terry Venables would have free-kicks planned, for all positions, for all over the pitch. Even from throw-ons – which is as good as a pass by the way – in our own half. We would get a shot, a cross, a switch of play, or purely get into the other half of the pitch.

All the players knew what to do and what position to be in. It was planned that well. We got many great results from doing this well, when I was at Crystal Palace.

Players don’t always do what you expect them to. At school, an opponent went to tread on my foot, which made me look down, but he slapped me around the head. I learnt from that very quickly! As Bruce Lee used to say, don’t take your eye off the opponent!

It’s really important for players not to lose their temper or get wound up. This will go on. Dele Alli could be a target. It’s easier said than done and it doesn’t mean you don’t tackle, but the mistake you make could cost your team the result.

I played for England against Morocco at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where Ray Wilkins got sent off. Ray got frustrated and threw the ball at the referee. Although Maradona got away with pushing the ball into the goal with his hand! The best way to wind up an opponent is to play better than him.

By the way – this is just for England fans, players and staff. Don’t let the opposition read this please! Enjoy the tournament. I’m looking forward to it and I’d like everyone to enjoy the challenge. KWS

(My nickname at Arsenal was Kenny White Shorts, as I never got my shorts dirty!)