Saint-Etienne (France), June 21 (IANS) England were held to a 0-0 draw with Slovakia in their final group stage match for both teams in the Euro football championship here, squandering a golden opportunity to enter the pre-quarterfinals as a group winner.
The English had to settle for the second spot in Group B behind Wales — 3-0 winners on Monday against Russia. This result also meants that the Slovaks have still hopes of advancing as one of the best third-place finishers, reports Efe.
England started as the clear favourites, having never lost to Slovakia, but came up against a solid defense led by the long-time anchor of Liverpool’s backline, Martin Skrtel.
Responding to popular demand, England coach Roy Hodgson fielded a starting 11 that included both Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge up front while captain Wayne Rooney began the day on the bench, though he came on in the 55th minute, replacing an ineffective Jack Wilshere.
The English set the pace throughout the first half, but the absence of Rooney — recently retooled as a playmaker — translated into fewer balls going forward for Vardy and Sturridge.
Even so, the Leicester City star got his chances, the best coming in the 15th minute, when Vardy received a deep ball and eluded Skrtel, but could not beat Slovakia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik.
A rocket from Adam Lallana approaching the half-hour mark forced a tremendous save from Kozacik.
Dele Alli, who came on for Lallana with 30 minutes left, saw what looked like a sure goal turned aside on the line by Skrtel.
England end the opening phase with five points, one behind Wales and one ahead of Slovakia.