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Talking points as England face Slovenia in final Euro 2024 group game

An unconvincing 1-0 win over Serbia was followed up with a share of the spoils against Denmark in Group C.

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England travel to Cologne to take on Slovenia on Tuesday night in their final Euro 2024 group game.

Gareth Southgate’s side have taken four points from their opening two fixtures and only a minor miracle would see them fail to qualify out of Group C.

Despite that, the performances in both games have been heavily criticised and, ahead of the match at the RheinEnergieStadion, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the key talking points.

The proverbial hits the fan

England manager Gareth Southgate with Gary Lineker ahead of the FWA Footballer of the Year awards
England manager Gareth Southgate with Gary Lineker ahead of the FWA Footballer of the Year awards (John Walton/PA)

Among the harshest takedowns of England’s display in the 1-1 draw with Germany came from Gary Lineker.

The 48-goal former England striker labelled the performance as “s***” on his ‘The Rest is Football’ podcast, while ex-England captain Alan Shearer also laid into Southgate’s side on the show.

Current skipper Harry Kane was the first player to speak on the subject and said: “I know they have got to be honest and give their opinion but also they have a responsibility of being an ex-England player that a lot of players look up to, that people do listen to them and people do care what they say.”

Now it is up to England’s current charges to do the rest of their talking on the pitch.

Growing pains

England’s Harry Kane playing darts during a media day at the team's Euro 2024 base in Blankenhain
England’s Harry Kane playing darts during a media day at the team’s Euro 2024 base in Blankenhain (Adam Davy/PA)

As an unconvincing 1-0 win over Serbia was followed up with a share of the spoils against Denmark, England continued their run of never winning their opening two group games at a European Championship.

Speaking on Sunday, Kane stressed the importance of peaking at the right time as the Euro 2020 runners-up aim to go deep into the finals in Germany.

“I love my other sports and always in these tournaments at this early stage it is almost like a boxer in the first couple of rounds seeing where everyone is at and how they feel,” he said.

“Or a golfer in a major tournament in the first round, don’t play yourself out of the tournament. Be calm, we can improve, but it is not the time to panic and change everything. We just need to change a few fine details.”

Can they Kek it?

This is just the second time Slovenia have qualified for a European Championship as an independent nation and they are still waiting for their first win.

If Matjaz Kek can orchestrate a shock victory over England, not only would it give Slovenia that debut success but also guarantee them a spot in the last 16 and – with the likes of Jan Oblak and Benjamin Sesko – they could cause Southgate’s side some issues.

They have certainly shown in their opening two games that they are no pushovers, having taken a draw from Denmark and been just seconds away from beating Serbia before conceding a stoppage-time equaliser.

Midfield muddle

England’s Trent Alexander-Arnold at the end of the Euro 2024 win over Serbia
England’s Trent Alexander-Arnold at the end of the Euro 2024 win over Serbia. (Adam Davy/PA)

Southgate has started Trent Alexander-Arnold as Declan Rice’s midfield partner in the opening two games, only for Conor Gallagher to replace him early in the second half of both.

The “experiment”, as Southgate labelled the decision to play the Liverpool right-back in the centre of midfield, has yet to yield positive results and Gallagher could be in line for his first start in Germany.

There are other options, too, with Manchester United’s Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton of Crystal Palace raring to go if needed.

On the attack

England’s Phil Foden during the win over Serbia
England’s Phil Foden during the win over Serbia. (Adam Davy/PA)

England’s attacking players have so far failed to light up the tournament, with Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Harry Kane yet to dovetail into a cohesive unit despite their fine club form this season.

Southgate is expected to stick with the same front four against Slovenia and will be hoping the switch is flicked and the undoubted quality among his front line starts to light up the Euros.

If not, it could be another long evening for England fans, plenty of whom in the stadium against Denmark greeted the full-time whistle by booing the side off the pitch.

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