The international break is here again and that means if you're lucky your country is playing in a game that means something. In England's case, it's the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Gareth Bale and Wales on Saturday March 26th at 3 PM GMT (10 AM EST). Wales, who are interesting in seemingly always having one generational winger (Ryan Giggs and now Bale) and very little else, are rooted to the bottom of qualifying group G, having achieved zero points and just one goal from their three matches so far, while England are behind Montenegro in second place, although a win against the hosts would see them overtake the leaders on goal differential.
England, of course, go into the match at Cardiff's Millenium Stadium on the back of yet more controversy over the captaincy, with manager Fabio Capello opting to reinstate John Terry thirteen months after the Chelsea defender was stripped of the honour following an alleged affair with Vanessa Perroncel. The expected media firestorm over the affair (the captaincy one, not the old one) has indeed materialised, although it does seem rather more confined to the minds of journalists and reporters than they'd have liked.
The second most compelling story around Capello's team is what they do with young Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who in truth is far more suited to a three man central midfield than being deployed in a flat 4-4-2. Since England will not truck moving away from a system that's a mere ten years obsolete, however, everyone can agree that Wilshere is probably not going to be anywhere near his best as a holding player behind Frank Lampard. Something has to give, and it'll be interesting to see just what that is.
The third is Matt Jarvis being called up for the first time, and I have nothing to say about that apart from the fact that Jarvis is really a rather excellent little player, criminally underrated on account of playing for Wolverhampton, and fully deserving of the honour.
As for Wales, they're underdogs but perfectly happy about that - they know that they can beat an underperforming England on their day and since 'England' and 'underperforming' have been virtually synonymous as of late the Welsh do indeed stand a chance. Alongside Tottenham winger Bale the host have a surprisingly strong midfield featuring David Vaughan and further bolstered by the return of Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey from a broken leg. It wouldn't be a huge shock if they managed to outplay England in the middle of the park.
Bale himself is very confident, as shown by several quotes via the BBC:
We're quietly confident in the camp that we've got enough to pull off an upset.
People might laugh at us but we fully believe that we've got some good players here and we'll be fully prepared and ready to take it to England
He's probably right too - England should underestimate their hosts at their peril. The match is too important for the visitors to simply assume they'll win based on superior firepower, and if Capello's side don't careful they're going to get a black eye.