Slovakia 0-0 England

Hodgson made 6 changes (Clyne and Bertrand for Walker and Rose, Wilshere and Henderson for Alli and Rooney and Sturridge and Vardy for Sterling and Kane). Kane and Sterling not playing was expected, with both having been replaced against Wales after poor first half performances. England controlled the game, but struggled to create clear chances, with the best chance going to Jamie Vardy, who ran on to a through ball, but his shot was saved by the keeper. Hodgson brought on Rooney, Alli and Kane, but England were unable to find a way through against a resolute Slovakian defence.

England have qualified second in the group and will play the runners-up of Group F, which will be found out tomorrow. The game highlighted a problem with the format of the tournament, as Slovakia seemed very happy to play for a draw, secure a point to move themselves onto 4 points and all but guarantee qualification for the last 16 (now secured) as one of the 4 best third-placed teams. With the old format of only the top two qualifying, Slovakia would have had to play a more attacking game, which would likely have resulted in a more open game. However, Slovakia must be congratulated for sticking with their game plan and preventing England from breaking them down to secure the result they wanted. I think Hodgson missed a trick in not bringing on Barkley – in a game where the opposition were packing the defence (strikers were taken off for defenders), Barkley could have produced a bit of magic to unlock the defence and break the deadlock.


England 2-1 Wales

England had more possession in the first half, but could not make it count and failed to convert any of the chances they created. Wales went into half time with a lead courtesy of a 35 yard free kick by Gareth Bale. Hodgson made two substitutions at half time, bringing on Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge for Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. It was Vardy who got the equaliser, bundling home from close range. England continued to dominate possession and apply pressure, but it took until the second minute of stoppage time for England to score the winner, with Sturridge poking home from close range.

Despite England controlling much of the first half, Wales were rarely troubled. Wales were content to allow England to have the ball in front of them and much of England’s play was slow. The changes at half time saw England’s tempo increase and Kane and Sterling, both of whom were poor in the first half, are under pressure for their places, especially at their replacements scored the goals. England go into their final group game at the top of the table against a dangerous Slovakian side. My starting XI for the game would be a diamond 4-4-2: Hart; Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Dier, Alli, Lallana, Rooney; Sturridge, Vardy.

Who would make your starting XI?

England 1-1 Russia

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.

Euro 2016: Group B

The four countries in Group B are England, Slovakia, Russia and Wales. When the draw was made, it was seen as a good draw for England, with understandably much of the focus being on the England V Wales match on June 16th. Despite being seen as a good draw for England, I think it will be a tougher group than initially thought, particularly with the order of the fixtures. England’s first game is against Russia, who often start tournaments very well. The game against Wales was always going to be a tough one because of the rivalry between the two countries and Slovakia will provide the final test; with the potential of three teams going through from a group, there is likely to be plenty to play for and Slovakia should certainly not be underestimated, as a 2-1 victory over Spain in qualifying and a recent 3-1 victory over Germany (in very wet conditions in the second half) demonstrated. Despite the tests, I think England will be able to qualify from a keenly contested group. I would expect Russia to have enough to join England in qualifying for the group, although if Wales remain tight in defence and Bale produces some magic going forward, they could pose a great threat.

Predicted final table:

1. England
2. Russia
3. Wales
4. Slovakia