Rotation takes undeserved hit
Hodgson’s decision to change much of the first team for this final group game was questioned by many commentators as an unnecessary risk. The decision to use the depths of the squad should not be seem as abnormal, and the changes actually did little to change the fact that England dominated a third EURO game in a row. However, the decision to make so many changes does invite criticism if the result is not perfect, and so England’s rotated squad will take the hit for not getting the win. It is a shame that this result will get the biggest kicking because of the personnel, and will overlook that an English side dominated the possession in a major tournament game and played, let’s face it, the sort of fluid football that many have been demanding since the fall of McClaren.
Dier is essential
Amid all the changes, the Three Lions had a constant that has impressed perhaps more so than any other player: Eric Dier. For all the ravings of a midfield Rooney or the undoubtedly impressive Kyle Walker, it is the latter’s Spurs teammate that has really become the vital heart of this team. His excellent screening of the defence, combined with a very decent ability to carry the ball into attack, has made him among the most impressive defensive midfielders at the whole Euros. His performances though are not the only reason he is England’s key: it is his singularity. An injury or suspension to him would leave the squad with no other holding midfielder, and unimpressive turns by the likes of Wilshere and Henderson in this game suggest no other player could adapt in time to play a similar role. For all the changes against the Slovakians, it is no surprise that he was once again the beating heart of this team.
Second may well be the best
In the immediate aftermath of this draw, the inability to top the group was seen as a small disaster. Admittedly, coming second opens up a run in the tournament that could include Portugal, France, Italy or Germany if England have serious aspirations of getting far at these Euros. However, the style of this England team could actually benefit from more adventurous opposition. In the group, they had to play three games against teams banked around their own penalty area, with precious little space for their pacy forwards to exploit. Against more expansive teams, they will be tested defensively more than they would like. But, they will too be allowed more space to attack. Weirdly, the harder opponents could provide conditions for games more suited to this squad’s natural skills.