Wales vs Northern Ireland Preview: Bale looking to shine again in the second Battle of Britain this summer

Gareth Bale and Gareth McCauley lead their sides into battle as Wales and Nothern Ireland battle for a spot in Euro 2016's final eight.

Wales vs Northern Ireland Preview: Bale looking to shine again in the second Battle of Britain this summer
Photo: Jonathan Walsh/VAVEL UK

It is Euro 2016’s second battle to see who reigns in the United Kingdom. First, it was between England and Wales in the group stages, when Welsh talisman Gareth Bale put Wales ahead for substitutes Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge scored to pip all three points for England. Now it’s between Wales and Northern Ireland with a spot in the quarter-final on the line.  

Wales’ road to the knockout stages

The Dragons were drawn into Group B with England, Russia, and Slovakia, a very winnable group. The second matchday had the much-awaited matchup between England and Wales. Wales, as said earlier, lost the match 2-1, but they were the ones with the last laughs (for now), as they won the group after their two wins, 2-1 against Slovakia and 3-0 over Russia, were good enough to win them the group.

Thanks to winning the group, Wales avoided the “Half of Death”, which is the bottom half of the knockout stages which contains teams like England, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. Gareth Bale is the team’s leading scorer, scoring a goal in all three games, two coming off of direct free kicks.

Welsh Gareth Bale celebrates scoring during the 2016 UEFA European Championship Group Stage Group B football match against Russia at Stadium de Toulouse. Wales won the game 3-0. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images)

Northern Ireland’s road to the knockout stages

Northern Ireland was drawn into a tricky group with Poland, Germany, and Ukraine. The Green and White Army fell 1-0 to the hands of Poland thanks to Arkadiusz Milik’s goal. They rebounded quite well though, bagging a 2-0 win over Ukraine which eliminated the Yellow-Blues and gave them a shot at qualifying for the knockout stages.

Despite a 1-0 loss to Germany, the team advanced as the fourth-best third-placed team on three points, edging Turkey out on goal difference.

Northern Ireland's goalkeeper Michael McGovern dives for the ball during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Ukraine and Northern Ireland at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais stadium in Décines-Charpieu near Lyon on June 16, 2016. / AFP / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's goalkeeper Michael McGovern dives for the ball during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Ukraine and Northern Ireland at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais stadium in Décines-Charpieu near Lyon on June 16, 2016. / AFP / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK

What to expect

You can expect Wales to dominate the possession in this game. Though both teams like to sit back and soak up the pressure and try to hit you on the counter, Wales’ attacking three and midfield pose much more threat to score than the Northern Ireland do.

Despite Wales dominating the possession in this one, you can expect the Northern Ireland defense to withstand the pressure in this one. It only takes one crack in the armor for the Northern Irish defense to breakdown, which happened in both their 1-0 losses to Germany and Poland, but the defensive stability of the Green and White Army is second to none.

Predicted XIs

Wales (3-4-3): Hennessey; Chester, Williams, Davies; Gunter, Allen, Ledley, Taylor; Bale, Vokes, Ramsey

Northern Ireland (4-5-1): Mcgovern; Hughes, McCauley, Cathcart, Evans; Ward, Evans, Norwood, Davis, Dallas; Washington