England top Euros group but disappoint again in Slovenia stalemate

By AFP   June 25, 2024 | 07:27 pm PT
England top Euros group but disappoint again in Slovenia stalemate
Harry Kane (R) during the Euro game of England and Slovenia on June 25, 2024. Photo by Reuters
England manager Gareth Southgate was met with boos and thrown beer cups by his own fans despite topping Group C as Slovenia also progressed to the knockout stages thanks to a 0-0 draw in Cologne.

The Three Lions were already assured of a place in the last 16 but can expect more criticism after failing to improve on underwhelming performances in edging past Serbia and drawing with Denmark.

England will have to wait until Wednesday’s final group games to find out which of the four best third-placed teams they will face in the last 16.

But more questions will be asked over one of the favorites’ ability to end a 58-year wait for major tournament glory as a star-studded forward line was snuffed out by Slovenia.

"That was the aim before the start of the tournament. Come top of the group and control our destiny," said England captain Harry Kane.

"I thought we played a lot better than the other games. We couldn’t just find that finish but we look forward to the next one."

Southgate made a statement with his team selection, resisting the calls to make mass changes as Conor Gallagher replaced Trent Alexander-Arnold in the only alteration from the opening two games.

If the England boss was looking for a reaction by showing faith in the other 10 who have started all three matches in Germany, he was left disappointed.

Slovenia are now nine games unbeaten, which included beating Portugal 2-0 in a pre-tournament friendly.

Declan Rice had highlighted Benjamin Sesko as their big threat on Monday.

Sesko could have been lining up alongside Rice at Arsenal next season had he not shunned interest to extend his contract at RB Leipzig.

The 21-year-old shrugged off a thigh injury to start and had the first chance of the game when he tamely headed straight at Jordan Pickford four minutes in.

It took 20 minutes for England to pose a serious threat and only the offside flag denied them a slick opening goal.

Rice picked out Phil Foden’s run but the Manchester City midfielder had strayed beyond the Slovenian defense before squaring for Bukayo Saka to tap in.

England’s lack of attacking threat down the left had been pinpointed as a major weakness against Serbia and Denmark.

Newcastle right-back Kieran Trippier has had to deputize on the left side of defense due to Luke Shaw’s lack of match fitness, while Foden tends to drift inside.

However, it was down that side that Southgate’s men looked most threatening as a teasing Trippier cross just evaded Gallagher and Harry Kane at the back post.

Southgate took action at the break as Gallagher was replaced by Kobbie Mainoo.

The 19-year-old added some much needed thrust to the England midfield but they still struggled to turn dominance in possession into chances.

Kane saw a header cleared by Sesko from a corner and Rice flashed a shot wide from the edge of the box.

Southgate answered the call to give Cole Palmer his first minutes of the tournament in the final 20 minutes.

The Chelsea midfielder, who scored 26 goals at club level this season, had England’s only shot on target of the second half but failed to seriously test veteran goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

A point was jubilantly celebrated by the Slovenians as it did enough for them to progress as one of the best third-placed sides thanks to three draws from their three games.

Matjaz Kek’s men missed out on second place in the group solely due to Denmark’s superior record in qualifying as the sides had the same points, goal difference and goals scored.

By contrast, Southgate had to endure a barrage of abuse as he saluted the England fans at the end.

Euro 2024: England 0-0 Slovenia

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