England outplayed Russia and failed to take advantage of their lead, resulting in much criticism of manager Roy Hodgson.
The team’s drew 1-1 in Marseille on Saturday night, keeping knockout stage progression in the balance. The key criticism against Hodgson was how he utilized Wayne Rooney in midfield, or how he subbed the Manchester United player for a defensive midfielder, in Jack Wilshere.
“I thought he [Rooney] had a good game, but was tiring,” Hodgson said.
“Quite a lot of players out there were tiring because, although it wasn’t baking hot, there was quite a humid atmosphere which saps the strength of the players.
“We just thought, with the control we had in the game and Wilshere on the bench, we could have the luxury of taking Wayne off the field and that Jack would do a similar job. I think that’s exactly what happened.”
It was strange to hear Hodgson make excuses with the humidity, when he should be concentrating on his substitutions, and revealed his naivety when he said he believed Russia offered no threat.
“Always afterwards you can look and think ‘Could we have used more subs? Could we have done a bit more?’ But we didn’t honestly believe we were in great difficulties during that time and we thought we’d see the game out 1-0.
“If anything, we replaced Raheem Sterling, who had worked very hard, with James Milner with a view perhaps to seeing the game out, but were unlucky to concede the late goal.”
“To say we are bitterly disappointed would be an understatement,” the England boss added. “To get that close to a victory, which I believe would have been a deserved victory, and then to lose it with one minute of injury time remaining is a tough pill to swallow.
“But that’s what happens in football. One doesn’t have a divine right not to concede a goal at any stage of the game and it happens to be a very good goal from their point of view.”
The draw means that Russia and England obviously have an equal chance of progressing if they can get good results against Wales and Slovakia.