Roy Hodgson believes England’s Euro 2016 meeting with Wales is a clash “between brothers”, despite Gareth Bale’s pre-match comments hinting at a family feud.
While Bale has twice claimed that England cannot match his side for passion, as well as claiming none of Hodgson’s players would make the Welsh XI, the responses have been reserved by comparison.
Hodgson again declined to return fire on the eve of the match, insisting neither he nor his players are concerned by words from the Welsh dressing room.
Instead, he is savouring the occasion in Lens.
“Talk is talk; action on the field is action on the field,” he said.
“If we really took it seriously, thinking about what people in the other team are saying, and allowed it to affect our concentration, we’d be very ashamed of ourselves.
“The reality of football rests on that patch of green between 90 and 95 minutes.
“Whichever team is going to win has to do it on the field of play and by scoring more goals than the opposition.
“The fact that it’s a game between brothers, if you like, adds spice to it and interest.
“That’s something I can only welcome.
“If anything it heightens the occasion, rather than lessens it.”
Predictably, Hodgson and captain Wayne Rooney were invited to match Bale by giving their own composite starting XI from the two squads.
After Rooney deftly deferred to the coach, Hodgson said: “That’s a question journalists in the mass media and maybe many a fan would be asking, but I’ve never, ever considered it as a coach of a team.
“It’s a matter of total disinterest to me. None of those Welsh players are available to play for England.
“I’ll leave you to come up with the answer to that. Have a quiz amongst yourselves. I’d be interested to see what results you come up with.”
While England have not played Wales since 2011, Hodgson has overseen three matches against local opponents – beating Scotland in 2013 and 2014 before drawing against the Republic of Ireland last summer.
All of those were friendlies, though, placing a ceiling on what can be learned.
“There was a lot of hype around the Scotland game, like there is around this one, but this is more special,” said Hodgson.
“It’s an important tournament where both sides have worked very hard to qualify and have been looking forward to it for a long time. The others were bragging rights situations, against Scotland and Ireland.
“Tough games, and good games, but this game is different.
“It’s a tournament and important points are at stake here.”
Rooney was in evasive mood, dodging loaded questions like they were red shirts at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis.
Asked if Wales’ attempts at needling English pride had been effective, he echoed his manager by turning his focus to the competition setting.
“You’ll have to ask the Wales lads what they mean by the comments, because they’ve come out with them,” he said.
“We’re just focused on preparing for the game.
“The tournament makes it more of a special game for both of us, but there are three points at stake.
“It’s two British teams and it’ll be interesting. We know their players from the Premier League, and it’s the same preparations for this game.
“It’s down to us as players now. We’ve done our work on the training pitch. Now we must do it on the pitch.”
Hodgson accepts that the opening-round results – a draw for England, a win for Wales – put his side on a tighter leash, even going so far as to say Chris Coleman’s men are likely to progress regardless of the result.
“It’s obvious they are under less pressure because, normally, if you win a game with three teams qualifying from the group, you’re basically qualified,” he noted.
“They’ve won one and we haven’t.
“So they’re under less pressure to win the game.”
In terms of selection, Hodgson faces a decision over whether to retain an XI that looked dominant for large periods against Russia but was too profligate up front.
Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge are options to start in attack, with Jack Wilshere desperate to claim back a midfield berth.
“I was satisfied with the team and I have been satisfied with the performances of the other players in training, and those who came on the other night,” was Hodgson’s only comment.
“Options are open to me. I’m grateful to have so many players available for selection.”