England slumped to a disappointing 0-0 draw in their last Group B game against Slovakia last night. The draw means that England finish second in the group behind Wales who comfortably beat Russia 3-0.
With lots of ammunition for criticism right now, let’s have a look at the five thing we learnt from last night’s game.
England will play second placed team in Group F
First thing we learnt from last night was who England will face in the Last 16 of the competition.
My initial assumption was that if a team finishes second they will have to play a winner from another group; it turns out that is not the case.
As confirmed by BBC Sport, England will play the second placed team from Group F which could be any of Hungary, Iceland, Portugal and Austria.
This game will take place on Monday night at 8pm and on the face of it, this is a very good draw for England. The Three Lions have already beaten Portugal in a friendly, albeit without Ronaldo, and I’m sure if the England side give their opposition the respect they deserve, they will progress comfortably.
That could be the sticking point though, will the side give them the respect they deserve.
If last night’s team selection is anything to go by, I doubt it.
Roy made too many changes
I understand the need for changes; it keeps players fresh, gives bench players a chance to impress. There is definitely a time and place for rotation granted.
Last night was not that time or place.
We all knew that if Wales beat Russia, who were awful all tournament, that England would need a victory to guarantee top spot.
Roy Hodgson and his staff obviously felt confident in the squad players they wanted to bring in.
unfortunately nearly all the changes made weakened the side.
I felt Nathaniel Clyne did okay, he’s not quite as forward thinking as his rival Kyle Walker but I certainly didn’t see anything wrong with his performance.
On the other hand, the other five struggled immensely compared to the players they had replaced.
Bertrand didn’t offer as much going forward as Danny Rose would have done and was also a culprit to a few high elbows during the game.
Henderson and Wilshere did not look sharp as expected in midfield replacing Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney
The strikers Vardy and Sturridge also struggled from starting roles but exceptions can be made for Jamie Vardy who was forced out on the wing and therefore was not able to influence the game the way he can.
Any fluidity that England had against Wales in the second was instantly negated by these changes.
Roy’s gamble on fitness did not pay off
Much was made about Roy Hodgson selecting both Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere in his England squad.
He may have been forgiven for taking one of the two ‘unfit’ players but last showed that neither looked sharp enough against a solid European side in Slovakia.
Wilshere only lasted 55 minutes before begin replaced by Wayne Rooney and despite Henderson playing the full 90 minutes his influence went missing aswell.
Both players are extremely talented but by playing both in the same line-up when both as struggling for sharpness was always going to be a bad move.
This lead to England’s defensive midfielder Eric Dier to orchestrate attacks as well as snuff them out going the other way.
Understandably Dier struggled through the last 15 minutes looking exhausted.
What made no sense to me was Roy Hodgson had better starting options available on the bench i.e. James Milner and decided against it.
I mean playing Dier, Milner and Henderson for example may not have changed the result but at least it would have shown some balance and logic.
Hodgson rolled the dice and lost, simple.
Teams find it easy against us by ‘parking the bus’
This is a worrying fact going into our next game.
Slovakia did an excellent job shutting England out and restricted all attacks by putting men behind the ball or ‘parking the bus’.
England’s next game could be against so-called minnows in Hungary or Iceland and I would not surprised if these sides choose to implement the same defensive tactic.
It’s a very simple tactic, put men behind the ball and hit the opponent on the counter.
This is England’s Achilles Heel and even if their next opponents don’t get it right, better teams will.
The coaching staff will have to look for a Plan B because there didn’t seem to be one last night.
Wales were deserved group winners
The final thing we learnt from last night was that Wales were deserved group winners.
I know England beat them but it’s how a team reacts and plays that’ll get you the right result.
England were fortunate against the Welsh, lets not forget that.
If that game had ended a draw England would have finished third and Wales would have still won the group based on last nights results.
Wales showed something that England haven’t. Heart. It’s easy to get hyped up for a derby against Wales but clearly not so against Russia and Slovakia.
Wales could have thrown in the towel after losing against England and played for the draw that would have got them through in second place.
But no, Wales reacted perfectly and put the Russians to the sword in the first 20 minutes by going 2-0 up.
Frankly the Welsh could have been three or four up by half time.
England must learn to be more fearless.
If a team is putting men behind the ball, try something different from passing across the box, both the players and the staff could learn from this.
In summary last night’s game was a bore-fest however England looked to have been dealt a good hand with these new tournament rules including 24 teams.
England should progress no matter who finishes second in Group F and make the quarter-final as is least expected by fans.