Roy Hodgson’s decision to make wholesale changes backfired as England wasted the chance to top their Euro 2016 group, with a goalless draw against Slovakia only enough to see them through as runners-up to Wales.
Days after being praised to the hilt for his match-winning decision to bring on Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy in Lens, the Three Lions boss made an error in judgment by making six alterations for Group B clash at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard.
England had not made so many changes at a European Championship finals since 1980 and the gamble, however calculated, did not pay off as Slovakia’s stern defence held firm to secure a 0-0 draw in St Etienne.
Jamie Vardy’s one-on-one was the best chance of the first half and Dele Alli’s effort off the line was the closest they came after on a night when the loud roar of England’s support could not see them over the line.
This was another frustrating trip to St Etienne, 18 years on from the World Cup penalty shoot-out exit to Argentina, and a bad time for their 100 per record against Slovakia to end.
The final whistle was met by a smattering of boos from the hearty travelling contingent that had cheered them on so vociferously, with England reducing their opponents to one rushed early effort in the first half.
Joe Hart had two saves to make, the first after Chris Smalling attempted to chest a cross back to him and then from Vladimir Weiss.
Wayne Rooney and Alli were brought on in a bid to spark England into life, which the latter almost did just moments after his introduction. The Tottenham midfielder’s burst into the box at pace and stretched to meet a Henderson cross, with his strike destined for the goal until Skrtel flicked off the line.
But that was to be as close as England came.
Gary Cahill said England had done all they could. “We tried and tried, time and time again,” Cahill said.
“They shut the door in our face. There is disappointment for us tonight. We dominated from start to finish but couldn’t shut the door.
“We had the ball constantly, we didn’t have the cutting edge to open them up. In a game like that you need something special.”
“We move on, we know we have a huge game coming up, it gives us time to get back fresh.”