Saint-tienne (France) | Roy Hodgson’s England secured their place in the last 16 of Euro 2016, but lost their status as Group B winners, after being held to a goalless draw by Slovakia here.
Wales’ 3-0 win over Russia in Toulouse meant the Three Lions finish second in Group B. Slovakia must now wait to see if they qualify as one of four best third-place best teams after their goalkeeper Matus Kozacik pulled off a string of saves — some more luck than judgement. England will now play their last 16 game in Nice next Monday against the side who finishes second in Group F, most likely against Hungary or Portugal. This was another frustrating night for England fans in Saint-Etienne. It was at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard where David Beckham was sent off as England lost to Argentina on penalties in the last 16 of the 1998 World Cup. Prince William, who turns 34 today, was in Saint-Etienne, sat next to FA chairman Greg Dyke who has said Hodgson will remain England manager — provided they reach the semi-finals.
Hodgson’s contract expires after Euro 2016. The England boss boldly made six changes to team, starting strikers Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge, who both scored off the bench in the 2-1 win over Wales.
Hodgson left skipper Wayne Rooney among the replacements with centre-back Gary Cahill taking over the captain’s armband. Slovakia coach Jan Kozak kept faith with the starting side which beat Russia 2-1 last Wednesday. Vardy worked hard throughout, but squandered two clear chances of England’s nine first-half attempts on goal to Slovakia’s single effort. He fired over early on, then had his shot blocked by Kozacik in a one-on-one after winning a sprint against Slovakia captain Martin Skrtel. And only a fine tackle from right-back Peter Pekarik denied Sturridge at the near post in the opening 10 minutes.
Lallana was then denied by Kozacik’s reflex save with half an hour gone. England’s frustration continued after the break. A mix-up between centre-back Chris Smalling and goalkeeper Joe Hart allowed Slovakia winger Robert Mak a half-chance.