England top group but night belongs to Slovenia after drab 0-0 draw
text size

England top group but night belongs to Slovenia after drab 0-0 draw

England's Bukayo Saka scores their first goal before it is disallowed. (Reuters photo)
England's Bukayo Saka scores their first goal before it is disallowed. (Reuters photo)

COLOGNE: Underwhelming England sealed top spot in Group C but hardly issued a statement of intent ahead of the Euro 2024 knockout rounds as they toiled to a 0-0 draw with Slovenia, who progressed for the first time in their history on Tuesday.

For the third game in row England's fans were left frustrated as a team billed as pre-tournament favourites managed a paltry three attempts on target in a dour clash.

While England have big questions to answer, Slovenia's players and raucous fans celebrated wildly as the draw ensured they finished the group in third spot after three draws.

England, who had already qualified for the last 16 with a game to spare, ended the group stage with five points but managed only two goals in three games.

Slovenia finished with three points in third spot, the same as second-placed Denmark who were held to a 0-0 draw by Serbia.

Although they had the same goal difference, goals scored and disciplinary record, the Danes advanced in second place with UEFA saying they would clarify the process by which the nations were separated later.

While the final whistle sparked delirium in the Slovenian ranks, many England fans left before the end and vented their frustration as they players walked to greet them, booing and throwing a few plastic glasses on to the pitch.

"We can be proud of finishing top, it's not easy in these major tournaments," captain Harry Kane said.

"It was a tough game but probably our best performance of the three, energy with the ball, we pressed better, but we lacked a bit of magic in the final third. But that will come."

England enjoyed 72% possession and completed 694 passes compared to the 208 of their opponents but very few of them caused any real concern in the Slovenia defence in which Vanja Drkusic and Jaka Bijol were both outstanding.

On the plus side for England, they have ended up in the opposite side of the knockout draw to France, Germany, Spain and Portugal and there was a bright cameo off the bench for Cole Palmer who injected some much-needed flair while Kobbie Mainoo also impressed after coming on for the second half.

"They had a good impact for us and did good things," England manager Gareth Southgate said. "There were a lot of things to build on from tonight."

On the reaction of the fans, he said: "It's so important that they stay with the team, however they feel towards me."


England's fans were in full voice before kickoff on a muggy night by the Rhine -- expecting their side to fire after a mediocre win over Serbia and shambolic 1-1 draw against Denmark.

But they were silent throughout the first half as England laboured yet again as an attacking force.

Bukayo Saka did have the ball in the net after 19 minutes but Phil Foden was offside before playing in a low cross.

England had to wait until the 31st minute to register their first effort on target -- Kane firing in a shot that was easy for goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Oblak also dealt with a dipping Foden free kick but Slovenia, who had never gone past the group phase in a major tournament, contained England relatively comfortably.

Kane was inches away from converting a Kieran Trippier cross just before halftime while Slovenia's sole attempt on target was an early header by Benjamin Sesko straight at keeper Jordan Pickford.

Mainoo replaced Conor Gallagher in midfield at halftime, the latter failing to impress after replacing Trent Alexander-Arnold in the starting lineup.

England took a complete stranglehold in the second period with Slovenia camped in their own half, but chances remained elusive.

Palmer, who scored 22 Premier League goals for Chelsea last season, came on to huge cheers in the 70th minute and immediately gave England some much-needed spark.

He produced several dangerous passes and forced Oblak to make another save in stoppage time but Slovenia showed incredible resolve to stand firm.

"I emphasise again the mental fortitude of this young team, Sloveni coach Matjaz Kek said. "They've shown their true colours."

Do you like the content of this article?