England 0 – 0 Slovakia
England – Hart; Clyne, Cahill, Smalling, Bertrand; Dier, Henderson, Wilshere (Rooney 56); Sturridge (Kane 76), Vardy, Lallana (Alli 60)
Slovakia – Kozáčik; Pekar ik, Skrtel, Durica, Hubocan, Mak, Kucka, Pecovsky ( Gyömbér 67) , Hamsik, Weiss (Škriniar 78), Duda (Svento 57)
Roy Hodgson’s gamble to make six changes in order to rest a few of his key men failed to pay dividends as England were restricted to a goalless draw with Slovakia.
This draw sees England finish Group B in second place, as Wales were 3-0 winners against Russia. Finishing second in the group means that Roy Hodgson’s men will face a team out of Group F in the next round, which includes Austria, Portugal, Iceland and Hungary.
Slovakia will be satisfied with a point as they now look set to earn a place in the next round as one of the four best placed 3rd place sides in the Group Stage of Euro 2016.
The first half was completely dominated by England. They controlled the majority of possession, whilst creating all of the key chances.
After 16 minutes, Jordan Henderson set free Jamie Vardy with a sublime ball which sent Vardy in behind of Slovakia’s defence. The Leicester striker beat Martin Skrtel for pace prior to seeing his fierce shot being well saved by Slovakia’s ‘keeper, Matúš Kozácik.
England had another good chance after 32 minutes. Nathaniel Clyne broke free of his marker before squaring the ball to Adam Lallana just inside the 18 yard box. His first time shot was well struck but it was directed straight at the ‘keeper, which allowed him to comfortably save the attempt.
Things were not going as planned for Hodgson’s men. The manager attempted to remedy this by replacing Jack Wilshere with Wayne Rooney after 56 minutes.
Roy Hodgson’s substitutions were not as impactful as they were last time out against Wales. They failed to make a significant impression as Slovakia’s defence continued to defend imposingly to ward off the danger of England’s threatening strike force.
England lacked a cutting edge in the second half and they once again looked jaded in their build up play during the second period of the game as they did against Russia.
The Three Lions were unlucky to have not gone 1-0 up after 60 minutes. Henderson’s clipped ball to the back post and it fell nicely for Dele Alli on the half volley. His shot looked to be heading into the net, before Skrtel blocked the ball on the line superbly, to top off his impressive display.
England should have took the lead after 73 minutes though. Eric Dier’s astute clipped ball over the top found Daniel Sturridge, who was clean through on goal. But he failed to get on the end of the pass, which allowed Slovakia’s goalkeeper, Kozáčik, to smother the ball with ease.
England were unable to create anymore definitive chances before the end of the game as it ended in a 0-0 draw.
It was another frustrating night for England. They had more than enough chances to win the game comfortably, but they failed to make them pay.
Hodgson’s surprising decision to make such wholesale changes for this game did not help England’s fortunes. The alterations included resting Kyle Walker and Wayne Rooney, who have been England’s best players in the tournament so far.
Both players have been a key part of England’s attacking play in this tournament, through Walker’s threatening runs out wide and Rooney’s build up play from his deeper midfield position.
These changes seemed to take all of England’s momentum away which came after their stoppage time winner against Wales. They were lethargic throughout and they did not look to have any sort of urgency about their play during the game, it is clear that a much improved performance is needed for them to progress further in the tournament.
Man of the Match – Eric Dier
England manager, Roy Hodgson, on his decision to make six changes for the game with Slovakia:
If we had won the game people would say we didn’t miss them [the players who were left out] and when we don’t they say the team selection is wrong, I am used to that one.
The Slovakia manager, Jan Kozak, gave his thoughts on the game at full time:
Our players tired as the game went on and England showed their quality and strength, but when you see an opportunity you give everything you can. Perhaps I didn’t expect to be pressed so deeply but we made some substitutions to neutralise the impact of their attack.
What is important now for England is that they put this disappointing result behind them and focus on their upcoming last 16 tie. They will certainly have to be more ruthless in front of goal as they head into the knockout stages of Euro 2016, as the teams they face will undoubtedly possess more top quality players who have the ability to win any game with an unanticipated moment of quality.