Euro 2016 round up: Slovakia 0 England 0 - and what the result means

 Slovakia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik (centre) grabs the ball next to Slovakia defender Jan Durica (left) and England forward Jamie Vardy.
Slovakia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik (centre) grabs the ball next to Slovakia defender Jan Durica (left) and England forward Jamie Vardy.PHOTO: AFP

With two-thirds of the teams in France moving on to the knockout stages, it is no surprise that England have progressed following their goal-less draw against Slovakia on Monday.

The surprise is that neighbours and tournament debutants Wales have displaced them atop Group B.

The achievement of reaching the last 16, particularly as runners-up, however, was always fool's gold to the Three Lions.

The fact that manager Roy Hodgson made six changes to the side that beat Wales 2-1 on Thursday is an indication of England's ambitions in France. Hodgson was keen to rest some of his stars in preparation for a deep run at Euro 2016. But his gamble of fielding a weakened team backfired.

 

Skipper Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, Kyle Walker, and Danny Rose started on the bench. In came Jordan Henderson, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge, Jack Wilshere, Nathaniel Clyne, and Ryan Bertrand. Collectively, they did not do enough.

In search of a breakthrough, Hodgson sent on Rooney, Kane, and Alli. Alli came closest to making an instant impact. His shot at the far post from Henderson's cross was cleared off the line by Martin Skrtel.

The Liverpool centre-back epitomised Slovakia's defensive display. England threw everything at them - they manufactured 27 shots (four on target) from 60 per cent possession. A Slovakian man was always in the way at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Etienne.

What England lacked was lethal finishing. Wales star Gareth Bale has three goals from as many games - more than the entire England frontline. To think that the optimism surrounding England before a ball was kicked was the depth of their strikeforce.

The Three Lions have paid the price for not entering the knockout stages as group winners at past major tournaments.

At the 1998 World Cup, Glenn Hoddle's men finished second in their group behind Romania. That meant Argentina were their next opponents and the South Americans sent them packing. At the 2010 World Cup, Fabio Capello's side finished runners-up in their group behind the USA. They fell to Germany at the first hurdle in the knockout stages.

England could now have a harder last-16 fixture on paper. While Wales will face a third-placed team from either Group A,C or D, England will face a runner-up from Group F. Falter and the entire 23-man squad will be resting for what is left of their summer.

Match highlights

- In the 17th minute, England play a long ball over the top of the Slovakia defence. Vardy ghosted past Skrtel. But with just the goalkeeper to beat, the Leicester City striker shot straight at Matus Kozacik.

 

- Sixteen minutes later, Clyne pulled the ball back for Liverpool team-mate Adam Lallana. From just inside the box, the midfielder unleashed a powerful shot that was saved by Kozacik.

 

- In the 44th minute, Bertrand's cross into the box was volleyed by Henderson. Slovakia centre-back Jan Durica blocked the goal-bound effort.

- In the 52nd minute, Chris Smalling, unaware of the danger around him, casually chested the ball back to Joe Hart. Robert Mak nearly sneaked in to score.

- A minute later, Sturridge played the ball into space on the right flank. Clyne surged forward and continued to drive into the penalty area. He stayed up on his feet despite a challenge by Vladimir Weiss and his shot from a tight angle is saved by Kozacik.

- In the 61st minute, Henderson stood a ball up to the far post. Substitute Alli's left-footed attempt is cleared off the line by Skrtel.

- Thirteen minutes later, Eric Dier lifted a ball over the Slovakia defence. Sturridge, with two defenders around him, could not get a good connection and his effort is saved.

The talking point

Should Hodgson continue to keep faith in Wilshere? The Arsenal midfielder, who has barely played any football for his club last season, is one of Hodgson's favourite players. But he did not look fully-fit on Monday and was off the pace. He misplaced eight passes while winning just one tackle. He did not create a single chance and also failed to a get shot away. Hodgson's decision to include Wilshere in his 23-man squad at the expense of Danny Drinkwater, who won the title with Leicester, is not looking to be the right call so far.

Man of the Match

Skrtel. The Slovakia captain marshalled his defence brilliantly, and led by example. Time and time again, he put his body in the way of an England shot. Kozacik, excellent on the night, was beaten once by Alli. But Skrtel raced back to the goal-line to clear the danger. His interventions were crucial in Slovakia keeping their first clean sheet ever at the European Championship.

What the result means

England have qualified for the round of 16 as runners-up of Group B on five points. They will face the team that finishes second in Group F. Their next opponents will be either Hungary, Iceland, Portugal, or Austria. Should they win that, their quarter-final opponents are likely to be hosts and favourites France.

With Russia losing to Wales, Slovakia retained third place in the group. They will now have to hope that their haul of four points is enough to place them among the four best third-placed teams.

Key statistic

England have reached the Euro knockout stages in two consecutive tournaments for the first time.

What they said

England captain Gary Cahill: "We tried time and time again but they shut the door in our face. We are disappointed because we dominated the possession. We had the ball constantly but we didn't have the cutting edge to open them up. In games like that sometimes you need something a little bit special but it wasn't to be."

Hodgson on his team selection: "I'm not so certain it would have made a vast difference (to play Rooney, Alli or Walker) from the start. It wasn't that we didn't create chances, we just didn't take them."