ST ETIENNE, France (REUTERS) - England had to settle for a 0-0 draw against Slovakia on Monday (June 20) although that was enough for Roy Hodgson’s team to reach the knockout phase by finishing second in Group B behind Wales.
England dominated the match but their failure to beat Slovakia, who came third and should also go through to the last 16, means they will face the runners-up in Group F.
England made six changes and their new-look lineup created several chances, with Jamie Vardy, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and substitute Deli Alli having efforts to break the deadlock.
But despite the roar of their fans, who vastly outnumbered Slovakia’s in the St Etienne stadium known locally as the cauldron, they could not find a way through the Slovak defence.
England have five points, behind Wales, who beat Russia 3-0, on six, and will play their last 16 tie in Nice on June 27.
If England had finished top, they would have played a third-placed team in Paris two days earlier in a location much closer to their training base which would have suited Hodgson.
Slovakia, on four points, must wait to see if they go through as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Hodgson took a major gamble by revamping the side that beat Wales 2-1 last Thursday, including resting captain Wayne Rooney, and saw his team make a bright start.
Vardy posed a constant threat in the first half and full back Clyne, replacing Kyle Walker, regularly troubled the Slovak defence with probing runs down the right wing.
Vardy fired just over the bar in the opening minutes, and then flicked on a header that set up a chance for strike partner Daniel Sturridge.
Soon after, Vardy outsprinted fullback Martin Skrtel, running onto a long ball inside the penalty area but firing his shot straight at keeper Matus Kozacik.
In one of England’s best moves, a pass from Clyne set up Lallana for a stinging shot that forced a diving two-handed save from Kozacik.
For Slovakia, Viktor Pecovsky shot harmlessly over the bar, and Marek Hamsik wriggled clear of centre-half Gary Cahill and fired across the face of goal.
With Wales leading Russia at halftime, England came out for the second half knowing they needed to score in their quest to finish top.
They had anxious moments when a mix-up between goalkeeper Joe Hart and defender Chris Smalling nearly let in Robert Mak, and Vladimir Weiss had a low shot saved, but otherwise they continued to put Slovakia under pressure.
Clyne’s shot from a narrow angle bounced off the keeper’s shoulder and Alli, with his first touch after coming off the bench, forced a goal line clearance from Skrtel.
Sturridge just failed to get a touch on a long pass into the penalty area and Rooney, on as substitute, had a shot from 20 metres deflected wide.
Striker Harry Kane also came on and put a header wide, while a Gary Cahill header from a corner went straight at Kozacik.
With Prince William, among the crowd, grimacing and holding his head at a series of near-misses, England kept pushing for a goal but to no avail.