Despite dominating for much of the game (and certainly the whole of the first half), England conceded a stoppage time goal to record a draw in their opening fixture of Euro 2016. Hodgson selected a 4-3-3 formation of Hart; Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Dier, Alli, Rooney; Lallana, Sterling, Kane. Hodgson has often been criticised as a defensive-minded coach, but this was an attacking selection. England controlled the ball for long periods of time and should have had the game won by half time, but the final ball was lacking or the finishing was wayward. Russia started the second half better, but England were able to get back into the game and finally scored through an Eric Dier free kick from 20 yards. It looked as though it would be the winner until Russia scored their equaliser deep into stoppage time.
The attacking selection worked very well in the first half, but the team faded in the second half, with Lallana in particular noticeably becoming less involved. Sterling too often ran into dead-ends and when he did produce a cross, there was little to trouble the Russian defence. Kane continued on corners and delivery was generally poor. Hodgson was slow to make changes – replacing Sterling and Lallana could have helped bring back some of the energy that had been on display in the first half. Hodgson’s first change was to bring on Wilshere to help retain the ball after the goal and Rooney was taken off. I would have kept Rooney on; he had played well in the midfield and also had lots of experience (particularly in tournament football), which was lacking in the rest of the team. The England camp were keen to say there were lots of positives (and there were), but delivery in the final third and finishing need to be more clinical. England next match is against Wales, who currently top Group B, on Thursday.
What changes, if any, would you make for Thursday’s match against Wales and what would be your starting 11? I would start with a 4-4-2 diamond of: Hart; Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Dier, Alli, Wilshere, Rooney; Kane, Sturridge.