'Toothless' three lions

British press blame England's failure to score on Hodgson's tinkering of starting line-up

England's Wayne Rooney (left) shielding the ball from Marek Hamsik of Slovakia during the Group B stalemate. The England captain started from the bench and his team eventually settled for the group runners-up spot.
England's Wayne Rooney (left) shielding the ball from Marek Hamsik of Slovakia during the Group B stalemate. The England captain started from the bench and his team eventually settled for the group runners-up spot. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SAINT-ETIENNE • England's frustrating 0-0 draw with Slovakia at Euro 2016 has left manager Roy Hodgson facing a wave of criticism over his inability to make his talent-packed squad click.

Despite 29 attempts at goal, England had to settle for a draw on Monday, consigning them to second place behind Wales in Group B and setting them on a quarter-final collision course with hosts France.

Having made six changes to his starting XI, Hodgson came in for criticism in the British media yesterday, who accused him of taking a "gamble" that failed to pay off.

The Times, The Sun and The Daily Mirror all branded England "second rate", while The Daily Express dubbed Hodgson's men "Toothless Lions".

The BBC said Hodgson's decision to break up the team who had edged out Wales 2-1 in Lens last week was "astonishing" and "almost smacked of arrogance".

The stalemate came just two days after outgoing Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said Hodgson would only be offered a new contract if England "do well" in France.

The 68-year-old had aligned himself with popular opinion by fielding Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge, who came off the bench to score the goals that sank Wales.

But the duo proved no more effective than Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, whose places they took.

  • Tony Cascarino's talking points


    It's hard to over-emphasise the importance of players taking their understanding of each other at club level on to the international stage.

    Italy benefit from fielding a Juventus quartet at centre-back and in goal.

    England's Liverpool quartet of Nathaniel Clyne, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge produced some brilliant triangles of passes on the right and Adam Lallana often joined them.


    The Leicester man is so effective in this role as he proved time and again with his club last season. Some people say he needs to improve his hold-up play but that's not his role.

    Vardy is quicker than Harry Kane so he is the man to have up front.


    While England's intricate passing and movement were outstanding, they offer such a small aerial threat.

    When you are creating chance after chance on the ground, it's good to have an aerial option, the kind Andy Carroll would provide.


    England's players showed fantastic passing and movement, with Slovakia being pulled all over the place.

    Every England player defended efficiently, playing the ball around the back when they could, but not doing anything daft. It was impressive to watch, even if the goals did not come as due reward.


Hodgson also rested his full-backs, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, with Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne stepping in.

But it was the decision to bench skipper Wayne Rooney, who has been revitalised in a midfield role, that proved the most contentious.

Jack Wilshere, Rooney's replacement, continues to look off the pace after playing just three times for his club Arsenal last season due to injury. The midfielder lasted only 56 minutes before the captain was summoned from the bench.

"I would have started Wayne Rooney," former England winger Chris Waddle told BBC Radio 5 Live. "Unfortunately for Jack Wilshere, he was off the pace and couldn't get his passing going. He lost the ball cheaply."

Kane and Dele Alli also entered the fray in the second half, but despite frantic scenes in and around the Slovakian penalty area in the closing stages, England struggled to carve out clear chances.

"Do England have a system at the moment? Or is everyone trying to score as an individual?" asked former England right-back Danny Mills. "There is no pattern of play."

The consolation for Hodgson was that, beginning with the 1-1 draw with Russia in Marseille, his side dominated all three of their group games.

"Soon we will make someone pay," he said, before adding, a little forlornly: "We will score goals one day."

Former England striker Gary Lineker voiced optimism that Hodgson's men could benefit from playing stronger opposition in the knockout phase, tweeting that it is "sometimes easier against sides who have a go".

There are no guarantees that England will face an attacking team in the last 16, however, with either Hungary, Iceland, Portugal or Austria their potential opponents in Nice next Monday.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart, at least, is confident that England's group-phase displays will make them a feared prospect for rival teams.

"We are into the next round and nobody will want to play us," he said. "We have been playing very well as a team.

"There are good chances being made. I couldn't criticise anyone. There's been some heroic defending against us. It is frustrating, but we are through."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline ''Toothless' three lions'. Subscribe