England have reached the knockout stages but at a cost

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So England have made it. The minimum requirement of a last 16 place has been achieved but questions have to be asked about the tactics employed and whether negative substitutions have had an impact already.

By nature, Roy Hodgson is a conservative coach. He picked a squad containing five strikers and three centre-halves for the Euros but that was less by choice and more because of the limited options available.

The negativity has once again come back to haunt Roy as two draws in the group stage now mean England finish second in the group and face a tougher route to the final on July 10.


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The group handed to the England boss on paper could have been a lot tougher. Russia had an ageing defence and were without several key midfield players coming into the tournament - a perfect first game for England.

However after taking the lead, the changes made in the game suggested a man more keen to hold onto what they already have than pushing on for more.

Hodgson is an experienced manager and these are tactics that may have worked in some of his jobs. Several years in Italian football - where defensive play is more accepted - may have shaped his ideas in this area. He has also worked at international level with Finland and Switzerland where, with the greatest respect to those nations, expectations are lower.

As England manager, the nation expects more. The changes made in the game against Russia were negative - there is no other word for it. While few would argue with removing Raheem Sterling after an underwhelming display, he also removed Wayne Rooney who has been key to England's performance.

The men brought on - James Milner and Jack Wilshere - were never likely to add as much to the side going forward and had clear instructions to keep possession and hold the lead.

A more adventurous manager may have spotted the tired, ageing legs at the back for the Russians and utilised Jamie Vardy to run behind the defence and stretch the side. It was set up for the attack being the best line of defence and would have stopped England retreating towards their own goal.

Against Wales the changes made were more forward thinking - but in the situation England found themselves in they had little choice! Ending the game with Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford on the pitch reminded many of the gung-ho tactics employed by Sir Alex Ferguson when his Manchester United side were behind. Roy was rewarded with a late Sturridge winner and this could have been the blueprint to move forward.

However, in the next game, he reverted to type. Slovakia boast a few top players but should not be the type of side England need to fear.

Changes were made to the starting eleven but fans never got the feeling England were going all out for the win that would secure top spot. And again, when changes needed to be made the England boss got it wrong.

Rooney for Wilshere made sense as the Arsenal midfielder does not look fully fit after a season of injury. However, when Dele Alli was introduced, the wrong man left the pitch.

Adam Lallana was sacrificed when the right choice may have been his Anfield team-mate Jordan Henderson (another coming back from injury).

Up front, Harry Kane's introduction probably should have been for Jamie Vardy rather than Sturridge. With the Slovakians defending on the edge of their area it left little space to for Vardy to attack - negating the weapon of his pace. Sturridge, on the other hand, offers more vision and better close control, which may have been more useful in the circumstances.

This left a disappointing result and a  allowed Wales to take the group. The question now is will Hodgson learn from this going forward.

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Wayne Rooney
Euro 2016
England Football

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