Euro 2016

Hodgson's gamble opens rift

Wayne Rooney was reportedly unhappy at being left on the bench in England's 0-0 draw in their final Group B match against Slovakia. Roy Hodgson's decision to make six changes to his line-up backfired as England finished second in Group B.
Wayne Rooney was reportedly unhappy at being left on the bench in England's 0-0 draw in their final Group B match against Slovakia. Roy Hodgson's decision to make six changes to his line-up backfired as England finished second in Group B. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

FA, as well as Rooney, aggrieved by Slovakia draw which puts England in tougher draw

CHANTILLY • Roy Hodgson's unsuccessful selection gamble in England's final Group B game has left senior figures within the Football Association questioning whether he has made a serious error of judgment that could jeopardise the team's progress.

While the manager is adamant that he has "no regrets" about making six changes for the goalless draw with Slovakia on Monday, his employers are unimpressed by the risk-taking that finished with England losing their place at the top of Group B and forfeiting the chance to play one of the third-placed finishers in the round of 16.

Captain Wayne Rooney is also understood to be aggrieved at Hodgson's decision to leave him out, and at the calculated gamble of breaking up the side that played so impressively in the second half of the 2-1 comeback win against Wales.

Rooney had expected to play and Hodgson's decision to rest him is one of the issues that has troubled the people who will decide at the end of the tournament whether England's manager warrants a new contract.

England's inability to beat Slovakia has gone down badly with various FA executives because it means Wales will have, in theory, the easier game as group winners while Hodgson's team will face the Group F runners-up, possibly Portugal, in Nice on Monday.

England have also been left with the daunting prospect of meeting hosts France in the quarter-finals.

"I am disappointed we didn't top the group but we will take whichever route we are given," Hodgson said. "We don't know if it will be a harder road or not because you never know which opponents are tough and which are not.

"I am not always convinced the opponents you get as a third-placed team are necessarily easier than a second-placed team."

But, behind the scenes, there is a firm belief that they did not have to make life so difficult for themselves - and that Hodgson went too far in giving half a dozen players their first starts of the tournament.

The issue is whether it will be held against him should England not make it past their next two games and what would happen if, for instance, they were to go out against France in a match that might have been avoided.

Greg Dyke, the FA's chairman, has already made it clear that England may have to reach the semi-finals if Hodgson is to continue in the job through to the 2018 World Cup.

Hodgson has the backing of at least one key decision-maker but has been heavily criticised by others, and finishing as runners-up to Wales has not helped his cause at a time when Dyke has also stated the FA is looking for clear signs of improvement.

Yet, Hodgson was reportedly taken aback to discover that Dyke had been openly discussing his future in a radio interview on the day before the Slovakia game.

A difficult situation has not been helped by the disclosure that Dyke apparently agreed to be interviewed against the wishes of the FA's media staff.

The ramifications of England finishing behind Wales are also being felt in a logistical sense, given that Hodgson's side would have played their next game in Paris had they won their group, meaning they would have stayed at their Chantilly base 40 kilometres away.

Instead they are now making arrangements to fly to Nice at the weekend.

If they reach the quarter-finals, it will take place at the Stade de France in Paris but, if England get to the semi-finals, they are in the side of the draw that would mean a return to Marseille, a proposition few would want after the earlier fan violence.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'Hodgson's gamble opens rift'. Print Edition | Subscribe