Forgettable last five minutes for England, Russia still unconvincing

VAVEL takes a general look at both England and Russia following their first outing in Group B.

Forgettable last five minutes for England, Russia still unconvincing
England and Russia battle out for a draw on their first outing  l Photo: uefa.com

England were on their way to halt their opening match's taboo, yet they failed to deliver on their inaugural match as Russia leveled the scoreline in the final action of the match.

What went wrong for Roy Hodgson's team? Or else, can Russia be considered as one of the outsiders of the tournament? 

VAVEL answers your questions.

Positive 85 minutes for England cancelled out in the last five minutes 

Eric Dier fired home to put England in front l Photo: DailyMail.co.uk
Eric Dier fired home to put England in front l Photo: DailyMail.co.uk

Expectations are high for this England team, probably equally to those put on the UEFA Euro 1996 squad which hosted the tournament. Hodgson is guiding a young and golden generation of talents who are playing regularly in the Premier League, referred to as the best league in the world, and hence, the expectations are justified.

Yet, despite the likes of an on-form Harry Kane, a recuperated Wayne Rooney and a young backline, England failed to deliver at the first time of asking, raising one or two eyebrows particularly because of their last five minutes, where they failed to preserved their lead. 

One question that undoubtedly was asked as soon as the team sheets were out, was Raheem Sterling's role. Prior the match, Sterling's name was the least mentioned in the starting eleven, yet he was thrown on the field as part of the offensive trio. The former Liverpool man was one of the worst on the field, as he basically lacks ball management and his gameplay is still ambigous. He did not deliver a cross from the flanks except one in the first 45 minutes, which connected with Dele Alli's head but failed to hit the target. 

Shifting the attention on the backline, England may boast the likes of Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, without forgetting Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand who are all offensive and pacey fullbacks. Yet, they still draw concerns in their central positions, as Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill may not be the most affidable defensive couple. Smalling is a good defender, but he needs to be paired with a leader and Cahill may not be the ideal partner for Smalling. In fact, Cahill at Chelsea plays alongside a certain John Terry.

However, England still have positive points to take from this match. One in particular is Eric Dier. He dictated the tempo for England, every offensive movement saw its start from Dier's feet and also proved to be deadly from the set-pieces. The word fatigue is surely not part of his vocabulary as he fought endlessly until the final minutes, even when England lost their focus from the 85th minute onwards. 

Another opening disappointment for the Three Lions l Photo: DailyMail.co.uk
Another opening disappointment for the Three Lions l Photo: DailyMail.co.uk

Albeit the draw, Russia still has to step up its game 

Russia were virtually out of the match in the first hour l Photo: DailyMail.co.uk
Russia were virtually out of the match in the first hour l Photo: DailyMail.co.uk

On the other hand, with two years left from hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Russia has still lot to do if it want to be considered as one of Europe's elite teams. Leonid Slutsky did not have any doubts on whom to put in the starting line-up, relying on his ageing defensive line full of experience and the towery Artem Dzyuba upfront, one of Europe's most prolific strikers and probably, also one of the most under-rated strikers. 

Also, in his offensive gierarcy, the CSKA Moscow coach relied also on the youngster Alexandry Golovin who was impressive this season with CSKA Moscow. Yet, the 1996-born midfielder was a bit lost in Russia's game play and he rarely had moment where to expose his talent. Moreover, he was not very much helped by his counterparts, especially Alexander Kokorin, who tried to take the initiative by his hands, but rarely caused harm at England's back line. 

Nonetheless, after the interval, Russia were brighter than England and despite going one goal down, they still had that belief of getting something from that match. They may not boast the most deadly gameplay, yet they exploited England's flanks very well and they outjumped England's backline in set-pieces or crosses from the flanks, in fact Russia's goal arrived from a header. 

Slutsky surely has to urge his players to start playing well from the initial minutes but on the other hand, he can rely on the veterans and the experience they transmit to the younger ones who form part of this group. 

Yet, Slutsky's team leveled the scoreline l Photo: DailyMail.co.uk
Yet, Slutsky's team leveled the scoreline l Photo: DailyMail.co.uk