Slovakia 0-0 England: Rating the players

Sarah Winterburn

No need for any apologies, at least. The chesty cock-up that constituted England’s only real self-inflicted moment of danger is described in various places as a ‘mix-up’ between Hart and Chris Smalling, but it was very much the fault of the defender, who ignored the massive ‘away’ shout from Hart, who could be heard approximately 17 miles away. Had little to do but dealt confidently and purposefully with one deep free-kick and saved comfortably from Vladimir Weiss at his near post.


First Glenn Hoddle spoke about Clyne in the build-up to the game as if he had just been drafted in from Forest Green reserves and then Clive Tyldesley said he was “doing a fine Kyle Walker impression” as if everybody had collectively forgotten that Clyne was probably considered England’s first-choice right-back about six weeks ago.

His first gallop forward almost brought a goal from Jamie Vardy and it was not the last time as Clyne set up seven of England’s 30 attempts on goal. Always energetic, always finding space, always beating his man, Clyne – who noticeably linked well with clubmates Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge – has given Roy Hodgson a headache. To be fair, Hodgson probably already had a f***ing massive headache.


Not a night to judge centre-backs but allowing Marek Hamsik to twist and turn him for Slovakia’s first real chance did not bode well for potentially tricky operators further into the tournament. His pained expression and threatened substitution at least reminded us that we feel safer in his hands than those of John Stones, as evidenced by a timely interception minutes after his recovery.


Had written exactly nothing until the words ‘chest-down cock-up’. Looked reasonably assured for the other 94 minutes.


Certainly combative and was finally booked in the second half – about an hour after he probably should have been for a flailing forearm. Seemed a little reserved in the first half, possibly erring on the side of caution or possibly struggling to read Adam Lallana’s oft-clever but sometimes erratic movements. We would expect Danny Rose to return for the knock-out stages without Bertrand making a strong case either way.


So very much better than he has any right to be in a position he has only consistently occupied for a season. Calm, assured, creative – two long, defence-beating balls for Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge stood out – and ready to drop into position to cover across the defence. It’s difficult to argue with over 100 passes at 93% completion rate. One small moan: we could just do with fewer 25-yard efforts into a sea of bodies.


Oh Jack. There was that Drinkwater-esque long ball into the path of Jamie Vardy in the ninth minute and then there were losses of possession, arms raised in annoyance, attempted surges forward that end in a tumble. The full Not-Fit Jack. A game that should have perfectly suited his clever little feet in packed areas began to pass him by and nobody – least of all him – was surprised when he was substituted after 56 minutes. Did Hodgson make a mistake in starting him? Certainly, I would argue that he made a mistake in changing two of his midfield three.


Divides opinion like a free bowl of olives at a restaurant. Take a look at Twitter after the game and he was either total dogsh*t or the best player on the pitch. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. In open play, he had moments of excellence – that long ball to Vardy for England’s best chance of the match, several combinations with Clyne down the right – but his set-piece delivery would have been infuriating from a seven-year-old. And in the end it was all just a little bit ‘standing one up at the far post’ when England needed something more creative. We are now 27 caps in and we are officially still waiting for him to have a great game for his country.


Predictably ran further than anybody else and was predictably on his knees after an hour. Which was a shame because England needed his two quick feet and quick mind as the game got more and more squeezed and England got more and more desperate. Once again we find ourselves applauding his energy (initially), his pressing and his instinctive touches around the edge of the box but then wondering if he will ever score a goal. Ever. Roy really does love him and appears to have told him to play wherever the wind takes him. Does he penetrate enough to be given that degree of freedom…particularly if you know that his legs only last an hour.


Almost scored with his first touch and then set up Sturridge for a passable chance with a header that was either a) smart and unselfish or b) a really poor attempt on goal. Then came the big Vardy moment – the ball through, the opening of the legs to easily beat the defender running through treacle and then…the one reason Vardy was in France and he cocked it. We expected the net to bulge and instead the keeper made a simple enough save and we knew that was the Vardy moment gone. There was no way Slovakia were going to allow that kind of space in behind again. After that there was some creditable chasing down and then…nothing. As space was squeezed in the second half, Vardy may as well have left the pitch. Maybe he did. That’s why he was a bad idea, Arsene.


The standard Sturridge – a couple of ‘how did get the ball out of there?’ moments, some cute reverse balls and backheels down the flank for Clyne and Henderson, and the odd ‘open your eyes and stop trying to do it on your own, you bell’ moments too. Seemed the likeliest to conjure up something out of nothing and we can only assume that it was fatigue that prompted his substitution because he was offering far more than Vardy.



WAYNE ROONEY (on for Wilshere, 56)
Marked his arrival with a cross-field ball that flew over Clyne’s head. And then a mis-hit cross. “Wayne just hasn’t got his range yet,” said Glenn Hoddle. We’re not sure he ever did find his range, though his set-piece delivery was a marked improvement from the faeces that had come before. Was in the middle of the late England desperation without ever really getting us on our feet.


DELE ALLI (on for Lallana, 60)
Almost scored with his first touch but it was an admittedly difficult chance. Enthusiastically took part in the ‘passing back and forth before shooting wildly into a sea of bodies’ thing that England did for fun in the final 20 minutes.


HARRY KANE (on for Sturridge, 75)
Suddenly looks like the Harry Kane of three years ago, coming on for 15 minutes, jumping at the wrong time and generally looking a bit awkward. Can England send him on loan to Norwich?


Sarah Winterburn