That's that in Group B then. The tremendous achievement of Chris Coleman's Wales in finishing top of Group B has been somewhat overshadowed by Roy Hodgson's team selection, Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson and Martin Maldini...I mean, Skrtel. Final standings are as follows:
In typical British fashion, we're going to skirt over the fact that a team that hasn't entered a team in an international competition since 1958 has topped their group; nor that Gareth Bale appears to have done what other superstars have in "one man teams" (Best's Northern Ireland, Ronaldo's Portugal), and concentrate on what this means for England.
Reasons to be cheerful:
England haven't lost a competitive game of football since 19th June 2014, where they lost 2-1 to Uruguay. In that time, they've won 10/10 qualifiers, and beaten two of the tournament's favourites in Germany and France in international friendlies (we'll ignore the losses to Spain and the Netherlands, only victories count in friendly matches). England have played three games in this tournament, and are yet to lose. Yes, we haven't played any side of note yet, but we've stood up to any defensive test, albeit limited, so far.
2. Change of scenery
England's problem so far this tournament is that they've been playing against 10 defenders when in possession (or 11 in the case of the Slovakia game). Not to take anything away from Wales, but all three sides in Group B tried to take the game to them - England managed to get three points where Slovakia and Russia failed. All three sides that have set up against England, however, have set out for the draw. As we move into the knockout stages, the permeations and possibilities become incredibly simple. Win the game. When teams turn up with the win in mind, space may open up for England's flair players to get in behind the back line.
The squad announcement was met with an underwhelming response. Rashford raised a few eyebrows with his inclusion, as could be said for Wilshere. What we've seen from the majority of players who haven't exactly excited fans prior to the tournament has been surprising. Walker has been the best full back of the tournament so far, and Clyne ran him close with a very good performance last night. Smalling and Cahill have dealt with the attacking threat of Dzyuba, Bale and Hamsik with relative ease, and Dier and Alli in midfield look very bright with future tournaments in mind. This is a squad without superstars, and finally one that appears to be worth more than the sum of its parts.
Reasons to be miserable:
Roy picked a team that on paper appeared to have six points already. Six changes was two too many. In Vardy, Sturridge and Clyne, his changes paid off: though Vardy struggled to find any space in behind, he offered more threat than Sterling, Sturridge was much more involved in build up play than Kane has been so far, and Clyne put in a performance that didn't leave us missing England's man of the tournament so far, Kyle Walker. However, the midfield looked laboured: Henderson was tired past the hour mark, playing as a covering right back towards the end of the game. Wilshere lacked match fitness (surprise surprise) and struggled to get England playing a positive, forward thinking style. Bertrand had an off day, and there was a distinct lack of balance down the wings that Danny Rose provides.
On 4 points, England needed a win. Roy made more changes than any team since Spain made the same amount (6) in 2008, and that was after they'd already qualified from the group. His team selection was a risky one: had England won, we'd be talking about a gamble that paid off, and that competition for places would boost morale in the last 16 and beyond. Instead, we're left scratching our head at the manager's team selection.
Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane have nearly 50 goals between them this season. Wayne Rooney is England's all time leading goal scorer. Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford are natural born finishers. This is the best forward line up of any England squad since Shearer, Sherringham, Ferdinand and Fowler. Despite this, we have 3 goals in 3 games from 65 efforts on goal. Simply not good enough. Yes, teams are sitting deep and inviting pressure, but players of the quality of this front line should find a way through, as Sturridge did against Wales. We lack penetration, and looking at the squad on paper, it should be our strength.
3. The Draw
England are now on the "wrong side" of the draw. In finishing second, we will take on any of the teams from Group F. However, beyond this, England would face a much tougher route to the final. The worst draw for England would be Portugal in the last 16, France in the quarter final, Germany in the semis, and Spain in the final.
Wales face a much easier route to victory, possibly facing Northern Ireland in the last 16. What a game that'd be.