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lunes, 20 de junio de 2016

Euro 16: England 0-0 Slovakia: Frustrating goalless draw in Saint-Etienne sees Wales sneak above Three Lions to win Group B

England 0-0 Slovakia: Frustrating goalless draw in Saint-Etienne sees Wales sneak above Three Lions to win Group B at Euro 2016

  • Slovakia hold England to a goalless draw at Euro 2016 leaving the Three Lions to finish second in Group B
  • Roy Hodgson made six changes to the team which beat Wales for the clash at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
  • Wayne Rooney, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Harry Kane all dropped to the bench 
  • England enjoyed two thirds of possession in the first half of the encounter but were unable to find a goal 
  • Martin Skrtel cleared off the line from Alli after Tottenham man was introduced in the second half in Saint-Etienne
  • Hodgson's team could now play Portugal in the last 16 and face a potential quarter-final clash against hosts France
No, but England didn't win. That's the point. This is a results business, yet England keep looking for other, unquantifiable, forms of assessment. 
When a manager drops six players, the only vindication is the result. Roy Hodgson didn't get it. He didn't win the group, either. He has made it very hard for England to progress beyond the last eight. And that is his job. Everything else is just rhubarb.
Wayne Rooney reacts to another missed chance on a frustrating night for England at Euro 2016, as the Three Lions drew 0-0 with Slovakia
Wayne Rooney reacts to another missed chance on a frustrating night for England at Euro 2016, as the Three Lions drew 0-0 with Slovakia
Jamie Vardy shows his irritation after a missed chance as England toiled without reward against Slovakia at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
Jamie Vardy shows his irritation after a missed chance as England toiled without reward against Slovakia at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
Vardy was denied by Slovakia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik inside the first 15 minutes as England opened up with pace in Saint Etienne
Vardy was denied by Slovakia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik inside the first 15 minutes as England opened up with pace in Saint Etienne
Adam Lallana's powerful drive is saved by Kozacik as England dominated with the ball before half-time
Adam Lallana's powerful drive is saved by Kozacik as England dominated with the ball before half-time
Kozacik had to be alert when Nathaniel Clyne found himself in a goalscoring position just after the break
Kozacik had to be alert when Nathaniel Clyne found himself in a goalscoring position just after the break
The Slovakia goalkeeper produced another fine save to deny the Liverpool right back as England pushed hard for an opening goal
The Slovakia goalkeeper produced another fine save to deny the Liverpool right back as England pushed hard for an opening goal
Dele Alli was introduced as a second-half substitute on the hour mark and immediately saw his shot cleared off the line by Martin Skrtel
Dele Alli was introduced as a second-half substitute on the hour mark and immediately saw his shot cleared off the line by Martin Skrtel
Alli's face shows the frustrations of a night when England huffed and puffed but could not blow the Slovak house down
Alli's face shows the frustrations of a night when England huffed and puffed but could not blow the Slovak house down
England manager Roy Hodgson and assistant Gary Neville shows the strains of a frustrating evening against Slovakia
England manager Roy Hodgson and assistant Gary Neville shows the strains of a frustrating evening against Slovakia
England's players show their emotions while Slovakia appear elated after the final whistle of the game on Monday night
England's players show their emotions while Slovakia appear elated after the final whistle of the game on Monday night
Jordan Henderson and Ryan Bertrand are left to think about the consequences of England finishing second in Group B after the draw
Jordan Henderson and Ryan Bertrand are left to think about the consequences of England finishing second in Group B after the draw
Eric Dier holds his head in his hands after the final whistle as England contemplate the possibility of a last 16 clash with Portugal
Eric Dier holds his head in his hands after the final whistle as England contemplate the possibility of a last 16 clash with Portugal

Don't let them tell you it doesn't matter, either. That England could end up playing Iceland in Nice, and coming second could turn out to be the clever move. 
This was a momentum-loser, a downer, and is likely to end, at best, with a typically English quarter-final match-up against the hosts, France, and the plane home. 
No nation lifts this trophy without meeting some of European football's big cats, but England tend to encounter them at base camp. 
There was a gentle route into the later stages of this tournament and an arduous one, and England have yet again decided to take the road less travelled: by any country with an ounce of football smarts. 
So Wales take the high road and England take the low road because Chris Coleman knows what his team are about, and Roy Hodgson doesn't.
His first game introduced the experiment of Wayne Rooney in midfield, his second turned on introducing strikers with abandon to the point of lunacy, and this – well, what exactly was this? 
An attempt to keep players fresh for a match that wasn't due to take place for five days, and wasn't guaranteed to happen anyway? Another roll of the dice by a manager who has now had four years to fine tune and still doesn't know his team? 
Hodgson took unnecessary risks and will no doubt point to the fact England deserved to win. But they drew. That's the bottom line. 
Hodgson and his employers spend too much time looking for meaning beyond the result. Another tournament of development, of young players, of thinking about the future. 
The fans join in the traditional pre-match sing-song. 'Three Lions on the shirt…30 years of hurt…' Except it's not 30. It's 50; and counting – because we keep trying to make sense of nights like this, instead of seeing it for what it is. A mess up. Underachievement. 
Another England team that is less than the sum of its parts; except this wasn't even the England team. Hodgson made six changes and some were just baffling.
Harry Kane has looked tired, Raheem Sterling ineffectual. But Kyle Walker, Wayne Rooney? These have been among Engand's best players. 
Nathaniel Clyne did very well as Walker's understudy, but when Rooney came on there was a familiar desperation in his work, a familiar sense of here we go again.
It was painful, those last 20 minutes, England players crowding into the middle, in each other's way, 11 Slovakians behind the ball. It was like a kids' match, no width, no rhythm, everyone milling around, trying to be the hero, yearning for glory but further from it than ever. 
Dier, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill and Vardy try to figure out how to break down their opponents during the second period
Daniel Sturridge was unable to get on the end of a wonderful pass from Dier to score the all-important first goal for England
Daniel Sturridge was unable to get on the end of a wonderful pass from Dier to score the all-important first goal for England
Liverpool striker Sturridge could only watch as the ball bounced through to Kozacik as another chance went begging for England
Liverpool striker Sturridge could only watch as the ball bounced through to Kozacik as another chance went begging for England
England's players take part in a huddle on the pitch at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard prior to the start of play
England's players take part in a huddle on the pitch at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard prior to the start of play
An England supporter leans over the front of the advertising hoardings as Three Lions fans dominated three-quarters of the stadium
An England supporter leans over the front of the advertising hoardings as Three Lions fans dominated three-quarters of the stadium
Travelling England fans were in good voice throughout the build-up to the encounter with Slovakia in Saint-Etienne
Travelling England fans were in good voice throughout the build-up to the encounter with Slovakia in Saint-Etienne
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier in the crowd for the game at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard 
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier in the crowd for the game at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard 
Coleen Rooney - wife of England captain Wayne - watches on as the two sets of players warm up prior to kick-off in the south of France
Coleen Rooney - wife of England captain Wayne - watches on as the two sets of players warm up prior to kick-off in the south of France
Joe Hart's wife Kimberley Crew is also snapped in the stands as the two teams prepare for the encounter in Group B at Euro 2016
Joe Hart's wife Kimberley Crew is also snapped in the stands as the two teams prepare for the encounter in Group B at Euro 2016
Rebekah Vardy - wife of England striker Jamie
Prince William was at St Etienne to cheer on the national side on Monday
Rebekah Vardy - wife of England striker Jamie - and Prince William were both in Saint Etienne to cheer on the national side on Monday
England captain Rooney was named among the substitutes as manager Roy Hodgson made six changes to his side to face Slovakia
England captain Rooney was named among the substitutes as manager Roy Hodgson made six changes to his side to face Slovakia
Shots were wild, or weak with tension, and Slovakia's resistance grew. Martin Skrtel was outstanding, so too Peter Pekarik, who often had the hardest job, containing Clyne. 
Overall, though, Slovakia were no great shakes. They will qualify as the third placed team in the group, rarely threatened and one imagines will more than meet their match in the knockout round. England threw it away. 
Hodgson takes comfort from the fact England have dominated three games but all that highlights is the mundanity of Group B. England got a soft draw against weaker teams and have made extraordinary hard work of it. Coleman plotted a way through this group that was beyond Hodgson, and with a fraction of the talent.
So in particular, this lands at the manager's feet. England must now fly the length of France to play in Nice, on Monday, and while it could be a benign pairing it could also be Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. 
Get through that and England will face France at the Parc des Princes and, leaving aside the difficultly of the challenge, good luck getting a ticket for that match, all those England fans who follow the team through thick and thin. Mostly thin. Hodgson owed them, too. 
Instead, he left out some of his real form players, then brought them on when it became apparent Wales were doing to Russia what England could not.
Vardy came close with an early chance for England, as he volleyed over the crossbar from eight yards out at the end of a right-wing cross
Vardy came close with an early chance for England, as he volleyed over the crossbar from eight yards out at the end of a right-wing cross
Defender Peter Pekarik's nose was bloodied following an aerial challenge with Bertrand during the first half of the encounter
Defender Peter Pekarik's nose was bloodied following an aerial challenge with Bertrand during the first half of the encounter
Bertrand threw his elbow into the face of his marker as the pair went up for a header in the 19th minute of the game 
Bertrand threw his elbow into the face of his marker as the pair went up for a header in the 19th minute of the game 
Pekarik's shirt was covered in blood as he received treatment from the Slovakia medical staff before resuming his position
Pekarik's shirt was covered in blood as he received treatment from the Slovakia medical staff before resuming his position
Sturridge runs out of wriggle-room inside the Slovakia penalty area as Viktor Pecovsky recovers to make an important tackle
Sturridge runs out of wriggle-room inside the Slovakia penalty area as Viktor Pecovsky recovers to make an important tackle
Cahill gave the Three Lions a few nervous moments before half-time as the stand-in captain needed treatment on a hip problem
Cahill gave the Three Lions a few nervous moments before half-time as the stand-in captain needed treatment on a hip problem
Dier and Jack Wilshere combine in an effort to win the ball back off Slovakia's Jan Durica during the clash in St Etienne
Dier and Jack Wilshere combine in an effort to win the ball back off Slovakia's Jan Durica during the clash in St Etienne
Hart gets himself in between a clutch of bodies to punch the ball clear on a rare Slovakian attack during the Group B match
Hart gets himself in between a clutch of bodies to punch the ball clear on a rare Slovakian attack during the Group B match
The Manchester City stopped was on hand to save from Vladimir Weiss as Slovakia looked to shock their opponents on the counter attack
The Manchester City stopped was on hand to save from Vladimir Weiss as Slovakia looked to shock their opponents on the counter attack
For England, the most worrying developments throughout the game were happening 300 miles away, in Toulouse. Slovakia were ordinary, but south and west of here, Wales were on fire against Russia.
From the 11th minute onwards, when Aaron Ramsey scored, England were second in the group. So, with time added on, they had 85 minutes to score. And that is the frustration. England failed and we will never know if they would have succeeded with a stronger team. 
On they came towards the end, the midfield that was meant to be taking England through this tournament – Rooney, then Dele Alli. Harry Kane replaced Daniel Sturridge, too, criminally marginalised so that at one time only England's centre-halves were deeper.
And, yes, England had most of the chances, the lion's share of possession, and made all the play. Yet they lacked conviction, and were not getting shots on target. Hodgson had piled on so many gambles with his team selection here – a four player accumulator in essence – that England always had an air of fragility. 
The players knew what had been heaped on their shoulders, there were too many athletes, not enough class, and they were always an injury or a rash challenge away from calamity. In the 18th minute, both fears almost came to pass at once.
Ryan Bertrand was, it must be said, a very lucky chap. Carlos Velasco Carballo of Spain has a reputation for being a very strict referee – and the one thing officials on the continent clamp down on very swiftly is use of the arm when jumping. So when Bertrand went up with Slovakian full-back Pekarik, he can count himself very lucky that Carballo was in a generous mood. 
Rooney was introduced in the second period as Hodgson tried to inspire his side to find a winning goal
Rooney was introduced in the second period as Hodgson tried to inspire his side to find a winning goal
Dier shows a willingness to put his head where it hurts for his country as England continued to push forward in Saint-Etienne
Dier shows a willingness to put his head where it hurts for his country as England continued to push forward in Saint-Etienne
Skrtel resorts to unconventional defending as he challenges Vardy for possession during the second half at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
Skrtel resorts to unconventional defending as he challenges Vardy for possession during the second half at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
To English eyes it looked like one of those Premier League 'coming togethers'. Bertrand was intent on winning the ball, caught Pekarik accidentally, one of those things. But it had an effect. The Slovakian went down, blood pouring from his nose and complaining bitterly to a nearby linesman that he had been elbowed. 
Replays showed he had a case. Not an intentional hit, but certainly reckless and easily a yellow card; a different referee could even have seen it as a red. But Pekarik wasn't the only stricken player in the arena. In the middle of the pitch lay Gary Cahill, apparently suffering a recurrence of the hip problem that had dogged him before the tournament. 
He received treatment and carried on, but not without the occasional wince and grimace. He looked to be struggling at times – as did Eric Dier – and that is worry for England, too.
The balance of play belonged to England with goalkeeper Matus Kozacik making three very good saves. The clip over the top caused Slovakia most trouble and Vardy outstripped Skrtel after 17 minutes, his shot kept out by Kozacik, swift off his line. 
England's best chance came after 33 minutes. Clyne again, switching the ball inside to his Liverpool team-mate Adam Lallana, who hit a powerful shot that Kozacik did well to save. He was effective again after half-time, although Clyne elected to shoot when he perhaps should have crossed, his effort striking the goalkeeper and diverting for a corner.
Slovakian chances were rare and a mix-up between Joe Hart and Chris Smalling was probably the best of it, almost allowing Robert Mak to nip in. Yet the longer the game went on, the more comfortable they looked. 
England's fans sung their hearts out to the end, when frustration took over. They are not fools. They can see this for what it is. A mistake. A very big mistake. And if their stay in France is curtailed, nobody should kid them that it was beyond the control of those at the top. 
This was not fate. 
This was self-sabotage.
Alli trudges from the pitch as the Slovakian players celebrate the point which should see them into the last 16 of the competition
Alli trudges from the pitch as the Slovakian players celebrate the point which should see them into the last 16 of the competition
Sturridge holds his head in his hands following the final whistle at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard 
Sturridge holds his head in his hands following the final whistle at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard 
Hodgson and Rooney's faces bear solemn expressions at the end of the match in Saint-Etienne on Monday night
Hodgson and Rooney's faces bear solemn expressions at the end of the match in Saint-Etienne on Monday night
Rooney and Vardy will now have to prepare themselves for a more difficult series of fixtures if they are to reach the Euro 2016 final
Rooney and Vardy will now have to prepare themselves for a more difficult series of fixtures if they are to reach the Euro 2016 final

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