Slovakia 0-0 England: Hodgson's men advance as Group B runners-up after stalemate

Slovakia could qualify in third place after an organised defensive display.

Slovakia 0-0 England: Hodgson's men advance as Group B runners-up after stalemate
It was a frustrating night for England in Saint-Etienne (photo : Getty Images)
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Slovakia: Kozácik; Pekarík, Skrtel, Durica, Hubocan; Mak, Kucka Pecovsky (Gyömbér 67), Hamsik, Weiss (Skriniar 78); Duda (Svento 57)
England: Hart; Clyne, Cahill, Smalling, Bertrand; Henderson, Dier, Wilshere (Rooney 56); Sturridge (Kane 76), Vardy, Lallana (Alli 60)
REFEREE: Cautioned: Pecovsky, 24 mins; Bertrand, 52 mins

Roy Hodgson made no less than six changes from the team that scraped past Wales by the skin of their teeth on the last matchday, whilst Slovakia packed the midfield full of energy and pace in a crucial final game of Group B, with England held to a 0-0 draw. 

England dominated the opening 45 minutes but could not break the deadlock

England started the better, settling into plenty of possession as expected, and it was Jamie Vardy who had the first half chance on five minutes, when a rampaging Nathaniel Clyne drove a ball across to the Leicester City striker who glanced the ball over the crossbar with his knee.

Vardy was a typically constant menace early doors and his flick on from a long throw found Daniel Sturridge, who was thwarted by a last ditch block from right-back Peter Pekarik. Moments later Sturridge, playing against Liverpool teammate Martin Skrtel, laid the ball off to fellow Anfield player Adam Lallana just outside the box, but the midfielder could only drag his shot wide on 13 minutes.

Yet England's best chance thus far came three minutes previous, as Vardy strolled onto a Jordan Henderson long ball, a mirror of Danny Drinkwater's forte, and found himself one on one with goalkeeper Matus Kozacik. The headlines looked made for Vardy, only for the Slovakian to make himself big and block the effort.

Slovakia broke the game up with a handful of fouls in midfield, but it did not take long for England to find their momentum oncemore. The Liverpool players were causing havoc, as Clyne bombarded down the right wing again, pulling a ball back to Lallana on the edge of the box, though Kozacik was there to plan the ball away oncemore.

England continued to dominate possession and territory, as they did against Russia and Wales, but failed to break the deadlock in the opening 45 minutes oncemore. 

Jamie Vardy had the best chance of the first half (photo : Reuters)
Jamie Vardy had the best chance of the first half (photo : Reuters)

After a nervy moment between Chris Smalling and Joe Hart almost gave Slovakia a sight at goal after the break, normal service was resumed when Daniel Sturridge released Nathaniel Clyne behind the Slovakian defence, only to see his angled shot deflected over by Kozacik. Vladimir Weiss did eventually produce a shot of sorts for Slovakia but his tame effort was comfortable for Hart. 

Rooney and Alli introductions fail to be the catalyst

England continued to work through the gears, particularly when Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli were introduced on the hour mark. The latter almost scored with his first touch when he latched onto a Henderson chip to the back post, only for Skrtel to divert the effort off the line and over the crossbar. 

As time began to tick away, England still could not find the back of the net. Eric Dier chipped a ball over the top to Sturridge, but the striker could not quite make contact for what would have been a certain goal.

England continued to dominate possession as Slovakia dropped deeper and deeper, yet continued to hold England outside their box. Rooney dragged a shot wide as the game entered it's final ten minutes, before fellow substitute Harry Kane nodded off target from a difficult angle.

Unfortunately for England fans there was to be no repeat of the last minute heroics against Wales. With the Welsh securing top spot in the group after their victory against Russia, England have to settle for second place and a last sixteen tie with either Portugal, Austria, Hungary or Iceland. Meanwhile, Slovakia are in a good position to qualify as one of the bets third placed teams after earning a fourth point.