England’s Group B campaign came to something of a dour end last night in Saint-Etienne as the Three Lions once again failed to make their dominance count by sharing the spoils in a 0-0 stalemate with Slovakia, who could also advance as one of the four third-place sides to progress into the last 16.
Meanwhile, Wales would go on to defeat Russia 3-0 to top the group at England’s expense, just days after Daniel Sturridge’s dramatic 92nd minute winner put England in the driving seat to progress as group winners with a 2-1 victory in Lens.
Here are how the England players rated in last night’s final group encounter before the knockout stages commence:
Joe Hart – 7
The Manchester City shot stopper had little to do once again on the night, but when called into action he was reliable for England, the only Slovakian effort of note coming from his former team-mate Vladimir Weiss, which Hart dealt with comfortably. He had to be alert when Chris Smalling attempted to chest the ball back into the gloves of the keeper with a Slovakian player rushing into the six-yard box, but managed to avert the danger. Will only be able to fully answer his critics against better opponents in the knockout rounds, but a clean sheet nonetheless after a horrendous mistake on Thursday against Wales.
Nathaniel Clyne – 7
One of six changes made to the starting eleven against Slovakia, the Liverpool full-back put in a strong showing to repay Hodgson’s decision to play him in place of Kyle Walker – who has arguably been one of England’s star men in this tournament. Offered a constant threat out wide on the right flank and successfully completed a number of take-ons’ whilst linking up with his team-mates well as England camped around the Slovakian penalty area looking for a breakthrough.
Gary Cahill – 6
Looked to have taken a knock early on in the game and seemed a little sluggish thereafter, Cahill was solid when required in defence, but questions will still remain over the vulnerability of his central defensive partnership with Chris Smalling against trickier opponents.
Chris Smalling – 7
Another reliable performance from Smalling who offers pace and looks comfortable on the ball bringing the play out of the defence, but had to have his blushes spared by Joe Hart when dealing with a ball in the area with a routine chest back into the keepers hands, unaware of the danger behind him bearing in on goal. He cannot be afforded to make similar errors from here on in later on throughout the tournament.
Ryan Bertrand – 6
Made a good impression on his first appearance in the European Championships at left-back, but you would fancy Danny Rose to still get the nod over him after Bertrand’s audition on the big stage in front of manager Roy Hodgson. Offered some decent runs out wide and was always looking to get forward, but didn’t have the cutting edge that was needed, looked vulnerable on a couple of occasions and lost the ball far too cheaply after an England attack broke down which almost resulted in a Slovakian opportunity.
Jack Wilshere – 4
Briefly appeared in the latter stages of England’s eventual 1-1 draw with Russia, but was a huge disappointment making his first start of the tournament. Wilshere’s match fitness is clearly still lacking which doesn’t justify Roy Hodgson’s decision to omit Premier League winner Danny Drinkwater at the Arsenal midfielder’s expense, especially when considering Wilshere’s return to first-team action only took place a matter of weeks before the England squad was announced. Offered very little in midfield and was eventually hooked just after half-time for Wayne Rooney, a dismal night for Wilshere.
Eric Dier – 8
Another excellent performance by the Spurs man, bossing England’s midfield despite having new faces in Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson accompanying him in the centre of the park. Broke up Slovakian play on numerous times and got England moving with intricate passes from deep to cut open the Slovakia midfield and get his side into the final third. Dier has cemented his place in the team going into the knockout rounds and the hope is that his consistency will continue for England.
Jordan Henderson – 6
Another change that went under the microscope for England, Henderson getting his first taste of the European Championships by putting in a sound display, but the feeling is that he too is suffering from a lack of match fitness similar to Wilshere, having missed out on a proportion of Liverpool’s campaign prior to the tournament in France. Had two notable opportunities, but both were superbly blocked to increase England’s frustrations on the night. His performance will do his starting eleven hopes no harm but there is clearly still more to come from the Liverpool captain.
Adam Lallana – 6
The Liverpool forward had another decent night for England, but the clinical edge is still lacking in Lallana’s game, none more so than when presented with a golden opportunity to score which only managed to force the keeper into a save. His performances thus far in the opening three games stand him in good stead for retaining his place in the knockout rounds, with this perhaps in mind when making way for Dele Alli in the second-half.
Jamie Vardy – 6
Was rewarded for his equaliser against Wales with his first England start at a major tournament, almost repaying this decision early on when beating his man to the ball to go through on goal but being unable to put the chance away from an angle – the only real chance that fell Vardy’s way. May have made the difference had he been used from the bench, but starting the Leicester man offers the opposition defence problems from the very first minute based on his raw pace alone, which will open up teams less defensively minded and compact as Slovakia. The option to utilise Vardy from the start or from the bench as an impact sub is a key decision Roy Hodgson must consider when naming his next line-up.
Daniel Sturridge – 6
Similar to Jamie Vardy, Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge is a name that gives Roy Hodgson a selection dilemma as to whether he must start or whether he is more suited to making an impact later in the game. Always looks dangerous on the ball, but fizzled out as the game went on with Sturridge’s fitness problems coming into effect once more.
Wayne Rooney – 6
Didn’t quite have the impact that was hoped when brought off the bench, but controlled the midfield alongside Eric Dier, who made a number of bursting runs on goal, but every avenue that Rooney went down was efficiently closed off by the resilient Slovakian defence. Had a couple of ambitious efforts on goal from outside the area which came to nothing and despite being one of England’s brightest performers so far, could not turn the game in his side’s favour.
Dele Alli – 6
Almost made an immediate impact after replacing Lallana with half an hour remaining, meeting a wayward cross inside the penalty area but saw his scuffed goalbound shot cleared off the line by Martin Skrtel. Added to the frustration for England by attempting and failing to test the keeper with a long-range strike that flew wildly over the bar.
Harry Kane – 5
Had little time or opportunity to win the game for England, had his route to goal blocked off immediately every time the Spurs striker received the ball. Has not had the start to the tournament he or England fans would have wanted, but there is every chance the Premier League’s top scorer could instantly spark back into life and prove that he is the match-winning player for England given his performances for Spurs last season.
Picture Credit to Getty Images.