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England 0-0 Slovenia: ‘England is getting used to sounding raspberries’

Video Caption, Highlights: England 0-0 Slovenia

  • Author, Phil McNulty
  • Role, Head football writer in Cologne

England saved the most ambitious act of a grim evening in Cologne for last, when they proceeded to applaud their angry fans despite knowing the wave of hostility that awaited them.

The cheers that greeted the half-time whistle doubled in volume at the end of another desperate performance in the goalless draw against Slovenia that saw them finish top of Group C at the 2024 European Championship.

Inevitably, the supporters, who had supported England brilliantly throughout the match, voiced their feelings, with manager Gareth Southgate’s applause met by plastic beer glasses pointed in his direction.

England finished top of Group C but any positive feelings were dredged up by another performance, making it ridiculous that they were touted among the favourites.

It was another 90 minutes of despair in England’s company at a tournament they have only just started. This stalemate against 57th in the world rankings was only a small improvement on the hopeless draw with Denmark after the piecemeal victory against Serbia.

England perform so poorly that they become accustomed to the clinking raspberry that greeted them at the end by their followers, the cheering that threatens to become their backing track in Germany.

Ironically, among the bad feelings and mediocrity, unlikely glimmers of hope appeared from elsewhere.

It sums up England’s Euro 2024 so far, with their highlight not actually being their own actions, but rather the fate that smiled upon them when results in other groups dictated that the dangerous quartet of hosts Germany, France, Portugal and Spain had fallen into the other. half of the draw.

All well and good, except that England didn’t look nearly good enough to take advantage of the opportunity presented.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, if you gave England a mile, they’d take an inch.

England cannot meet any of these four nations before the final in Berlin on July 14, but that idea alone brings credibility to breaking point, so poor has Southgate’s side been.

Southgate talked about a reset, but this was more of the same from an England side short on energy, inspiration and threat. Their best move of the match was a slick passing exchange between Declan Rice and Phil Foden that ended with Bukayo Saka’s close-range finish. is excluded for offside.

England made all the right noises before kick-off, adopting a siege mentality after criticism following a draw with the Danes, but if they were planning to answer their opponents they saved that for another day.

Video Caption, ‘Excitement and energy’ – Hart and White about the young lions of England

Southgate needs to take advantage of the positives, but to say that so many things are coming together is a statement that completely contradicts what England has produced.

A prime example is the mess of midfield strategy, with Southgate now having deployed three separate partners for Rice in just two and a half games.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s midfield experiment ended after 54 minutes in the draw against Denmark, while his replacement Conor Gallagher lasted just 45 minutes here, where he could have no complaints about his withdrawal.

Kobbie Mainoo was the next taxi driver into Southgate’s midfield and he at least provided some urgency amid the lethargy. If Southgate seems to stick to the system he is so adamant about, he will start in England’s last 16. Next stop Adam Wharton from Crystal Palace.

It was another poor evening for Jude Bellingham, whose performances have dropped alarmingly since his match-winning display against Serbia. He lost the ball 16 times and was guilty of negative body language in the first half as his frustration at his lack of influence boiled over.

Video Caption, Bellingham’s ‘frustrating night’ – analysis

England had almost 74% possession but there was little to show for it apart from the occasional squabble in the goalmouth as John Stones’ header was cleared, while a couple of comfortable shots were handled easily by Slovenian keeper Jan Oblak.

The stats are significant, with England ranked 17th for shots and 19th for expected goals among the 24 teams at Euro 2024.

And as Euro 2024 groups go, Group C ranks as the worst ever. It was the first Euros group with five matches ending in draws and the first Euros group in which no team scored more than one goal in a match.

If you wanted excitement you had to go elsewhere and England certainly didn’t provide that.

So where does Southgate go next, especially as he was among the very small minority who felt there were good signs here?

If he sticks to his tried and tested formation, it is likely that Rice and Mainoo will be paired together in midfield. Foden had his moments and worked tirelessly, while Chelsea’s Cole Palmer provided a lively 19-minute cameo as a replacement on Saka’s right flank.

Palmer was direct and confident and suggested he could inject new impetus into an England side in dire need. He has put himself in line for a starting spot, which gives Southgate one of the more pleasant problems to think about.

Anthony Gordon’s appearance for the closing moments was likely a result of Foden’s fatigue, rather a desperate bid for a late winner.

England captain Harry Kane, again on the fringes, spoke of the achievement of finishing top of the group and showed some optimism when he said: “If you look at previous tournaments, we have played our best football in the knockout rounds, such as the last euros against Germany, Ukraine and Denmark, so there is certainly more to come.”

If England are to make their mark in a tournament that has had such high expectations, Southgate must hope Kane is right as it looks like a long shot at the moment.