So this is it, the game of Euro 2016 so far (probably). England play Wales today in Lens, and two very interested parties will be watching on live for BBC1.
Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage are both on duty this afternoon, the Welshman in the co-commentary position with the former England striker up in the studio.
Before the tournament, both of them sat down with Radio Times to talk about what it would be like to watch their two nations face each other for the first time in a major tournament.
Savage is already warning people that he’s “going to go berserk”, and expects English fans to get riled up.
“Social media will go into meltdown,” he laughs. Game on…
Even though you’re on duty, is it difficult to hide your emotions in a game like this?
Robbie Savage I can guarantee I won’t be hiding anything. If Wales score, of course I’m going to go berserk. In a game of this magnitude, it’d be impossible not to.
Alan Shearer And I desperately want England to win, so you can’t help but show that passion. This is the sort of game you want to be involved in, and if you can’t play in it, the next best thing is to be watching and talking about it.
RS When England beat Wales 2–0 in 2004 [in a World Cup qualifying match], I was suspended for that match and they had me on the panel as a punching bag.
AS No change there, then!
RS I was just the fall guy because Wales had no chance that day. But I tell you what – this game is different because Wales have got a great chance of beating England. I’m so pleased I’m going to be in the commentary box to witness it.
Will you be watching together?
AS They’ve tactfully kept us apart, so I’ll be in the studio while Robbie’s in the commentary box.
RS The BBC is trying something different this year because I’m going to be in the box with Martin Keown, while commentator Guy Mowbray attempts to keep the peace. Neither of us will pull any punches, so social media will probably go into meltdown. Not that I’ll upset Twitter any more than I normally do!
Depending whether England or Wales win, will one of you be avoiding the other after the game?
RS No. We’ve been through so much together over the years that while we’ve been winding each other up beforehand, it never gets that serious.
AS We can’t affect what goes on during the game, so we’ll enjoy the match and then have a pint afterwards – when England have won.
We’re used to the rugby rivalry between the two nations – will the atmosphere be different for a football clash?
AS I think, if anything, it’s fiercer.
RS It’s definitely more tribal than the rugby. I was at the England v Wales rugby game, watching it in a box with Gareth Bale’s mum and dad, and there were English and Welsh fans in there having a pint together and enjoying it. You won’t get that at this football match. This is more intense and more passionate.
Do England have weaknesses that Wales can exploit?
AS Yes, England’s defence worries me. Our back four is our Achilles heel, particularly the centre backs, who look anything but solid.
RS Everyone in Wales knows it, too. So you can bet our centre forward Sam Vokes will unsettle them, allowing Gareth Bale the room to do his stuff. My only worry is that if you stop Bale, you stop Wales. That’s how important he is to us. Without him, Wales simply can’t win.
Can Wales take heart from what Leicester achieved last season?
RS Definitely. Man for man, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City were better than Leicester, but they proved that with togetherness and team spirit, anything’s possible. And like Leicester, who had the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez in their line-up, Wales have got their own superstar in Bale.
AS It serves as a warning to England, because although we’ve got the better individual players, that doesn’t guarantee you winning the game. But I still think as long as England play as a team and don’t get caught up in the occasion, they’ll be OK.
Who should play up front for England?
AS Roy Hodgson will start with one up front, and that has to be Harry Kane. He’s earned the right to start the tournament as England’s number-one striker. I’d go with Wayne Rooney, Dele Alli and one other behind him, with Jamie Vardy to come off the bench when the Welsh tire.
RS I’d be happy to see Vardy on the bench because his pace really troubled Ashley Williams when Swansea played Leicester last season.
Any other worries?
AS Dele Alli got suspended for the last three Premier League games after throwing a punch, so I’m hoping he’s learnt his lesson. He’d be
a mug to do it again.
RS Dele Alli does worry me because he’s such a talent; I’ve got a feeling he could really set the tournament alight.
How far can both sides make it in the Euro 2016 tournament?
RS I think Wales will get to the quarter-finals, but if they aren’t going to win it, I’d like to see England or the Republic of Ireland do it.
AS I’m tipping England to reach the semi-finals, because we’ve got some great young players. But to win it you need a good defence and we haven’t got one, so the semis are the most we can hope for.
So what are you predicting on the day?
RS The Premier League season we’ve just had proves anything can happen, so I really think Wales will cause a shock with a narrow win.
AS It’ll be very close, but England have got too many match winners in their side, so I can’t see anything but an England win.
Alan, if it guaranteed that England would win the Euros, would you follow Robbie’s lead and sign up for Strictly?
AS No! Did you see the state of him on Strictly? I wouldn’t even put his normal day-to-day gear on.
RS It’s irrelevant, because you’ve got to be a big name to be invited on Strictly.
AS True, there are more letters in your name than mine! But it’s not really the clothes that put me off; it’s the dancing I’d be scared of. I’m sorry, England are going to have to do it without me making a fool of myself.
England v Wales is live on BBC1 from 1.30pm (kick-off 2pm)