Wales defender Joe Rodon is relishing the task of facing off against England captain Harry Kane as the two teams meet in the World Cup on Tuesday night.
Rodon and his Welsh teammates have disappointed at the tournament so far in Qatar, taking only one point from two games against the United States and Iran, and face elimination from the competition if they fail to beat their British rivals. Even then, their fate would depend on the other result in the group.
There has been some doubt about whether Kane should feature from the start against Wales with England comfortable in Group B and set for the knockout stages unless they remarkably lose by a four-goal margin. But Rodon, who played with Kane at Tottenham before going out on loan to Rennes at the start of the season, is up for the challenge of facing what he calls a world class striker.
“I’ve played against him maybe a million times in training. He is a top player, one of the best in the world,” Rodon said of Kane.
“Training with these players for the last couple of seasons has improved me as a player. In a competitive game it is going to be another big challenge – he is a top player who has done it for many years and I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to train with players like this.
“It is going to be a brilliant challenge for me and one I am very excited about. He is a brilliant finisher with both feet – he’s scored many goals and is a world class striker.”
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Rodon is spending the season on loan with Ligue 1 club Rennes, who have the option to make the deal permanent should they wish as part of the deal. But another player Rodon used to play with at Tottenham, Gareth Bale, will line up alongside the centre back as Wales fight for their lives to stay in their first World Cup in 64 years on Tuesday night.
The two have a strong relationship, and Wales will need to display unity and togetherness if they are to get a result against England – especially in light of the last two results and the criticism the likes of Bale has taken because of the performances in Qatar. But Rodon insists Bale plays a crucial part in taking the edge off in pressure situations in camp – to Wales’ advantage.
“He is a superstar and I think me knowing him, what he is like, he is always joking around,” Rodon said of the Wales captain. “Him being the player he is, he always takes the pressure off the group.
“You have seen he has delivered time and time again. For us to have him as a country it is unbelievable – we are delighted to have him and hopefully we will have him for many years.
“We all know what he is capable of as a player and we look up to him and respect him.”