Euro roundup: Slim margins could doom England

James Sharman and Faizal Khamisa discuss the final standings for Group B at Euro 2016 and what could await Wales and England in the knockout stages.

Here’s what happened on Monday on Matchday 11 of UEFA Euro 2016 in France, in case you missed it…

Match report: Slovakia 0, England 0 in Saint-Etienne || Match stats
Match report: Russia 0, Wales 3 in Toulouse || Match stats

England’s doomed path?: With England sitting in first place in Group B, but with a slim lead over Wales, manager Roy Hodgson made six changes to his starting line-up—a bold move considering he needed a victory against Slovakia to ensure his team would win the group. It’d be harsh to say the gamble didn’t pay off, as it’s not like the changes were the reason why England managed only a draw against Slovakia. Really, could you argue against starting Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge after the way they performed in the win over Wales? Still, you have to wonder if Hodgson’s decision to make wholesale changes sent a message that England wasn’t taking this game as seriously as it should, and that it ended up providing Slovakia with extra motivation.

The story here isn’t the changes, though, but rather England’s failure to break down a resolute and well-organized Slovakia. The Three Lions’ 0-0 draw, coupled with Wales’ 3-0 hammering of Russia, means England ceded top spot in the group to the Welsh, and had to settle for second place ahead of Slovakia (who will have to wait a few days to see if they qualify as one of the top-four third-place sides).

No big deal, right? Actually, it kinda is, as the price of failure at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard, where England suffered that memorable defeat to Argentina at the 1998 World Cup, could be a very costly one.

A Round of 16 showdown with the Group F runners-up looms for the English. Don’t look now, but Portugal, England’s bogey team at recent major tournaments, could finish second in Group F. Should the Hodgson’s men successfully negotiate that contest, their “reward” would likely be a quarterfinal match vs. France—and then the Germans in the semifinals.

We often talk about razor slim margins in sports. This is the perfect example. One goal—one single goal against Slovakia—would have resulted in England clinchIMO Group B and ensuring it an easier time of it in the knockout rounds, aside from a potential match with Spain in the quarterfinals. This draw against Slovakia means England’s path to the final just became a lot more difficult.

MORE ON EURO 2016: Sportsnet has you covered with in-depth coverage of Euro 2016 in France, which runs from June 10 to July 10.

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In the 11th minute, Wales’ Joe Allen played a lovely long ball that cut open the Russian defence. Aaron Ramsey ran onto the end of it and then cooly chipped it over advancing goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

In the 17th minute, Jamie Vardy slipped in behind the Slovakian defence after latching onto a long ball. Goalkeeper Matus Kozacik stood up well to stop the Leicester City star’s shot from in close.

The Welsh players and fans celebrating after the final whistle blew in Toulouse—this after decades of waiting for something to celebrate.



“Overall it was a fantastic performance and we topped the group, which no one would have seen coming.” – Wales’ Aaron Ramsey

• England on Monday made six changes to their starting lineup, its most at the European Championship since 1980 (when they also made six changes in a 2-1 win over Spain).
• Gareth Bale has registered 12 shots on target in France, the most at a single European Championship tournament since Michel Platini had 15 shots on target in 1984.
• Wayne Rooney has made 20 appearances for England at a major tournament. Only Assley Cole and Steven Gerrard (both with 22) have appeared in more.
• Wales have scored more first-half goals (four) at this tournament than any other team.
• Gareth Bale is the first player to score in all three group games at European Championship since Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Milan Baros in 2004.
• Wales has scored with their first shot on target in all three of their group-stage games.
Stats courtesy of Opta


1) Gareth Bale, Wales: Another man-of-the-match performance from the world’s most expensive player, who scored one goal and set up another.
2) Aaron Ramsey, Wales: Tortured the Russians with his pace, touch on the ball and probing runs.
3) Matus Kozacik, Slovakia: Some heroic defending from the Slovakian goalkeeper who earned his first clean sheet in France.

Matchday 1 recap: Magnificent Payet rescues France || Typical Giroud performance
Matchday 2 recap: England gets what it deserves || Bale already proving his worth for Wales
Matchday 3 recap: Modric pure magic for Croatia || Germany’s Goetze not a false 9
Matchday 4 recap: Spain’s resolve sees them through || Italy’s experience the difference
Matchday 5 recap: Portugal blows it || The hoopla over Kiraly’s pants
Matchday 6 recap: It can be a cruel game at times || What was Deschamps thinking?
Matchday 7 recap: English relief after beating Wales || You gotta love Northern Ireland
Matchday 8 recap: Spain sends a message
Matchday 9 recap: Ronaldo cuts a distraught figure
Matchday 10 recap: Albania has held its own || In defence of Ronaldo

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