"When did England last come to a tournament and have three such dominant games in a row? We have taken the game to the opposition, we have controlled the play."
This was Roy Hodgson's summation of England's group stage heroics against Russia, Wales, and Slovakia. It's success after success for the former Liverpool manager after his cunning plan bested Wales in the previous game.
Liverpool fans finally got to see a whole collection of players from the club turn out together for the England's national team after Roy Hodgson made six changes to his starting line-up. Half of those changes were to bring in Jordan Henderson, Nathaniel Clyne, and Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge was the hero who brought Hodgson's only tournament victory as England manager and replaced Harry Kane up front. The silky Adam Lallana retained his place in the side as England attempted to secure top spot and face a third-placed side in the last 16. Martin Škrtel may be on his way out of Liverpool but was aiming to captain Slovakia to the knock-out stages.
In short, Liverpool's players acquitted themselves well. Clyne was probably the best of the bunch, while Daniel Sturridge had the best chance of the game. They linked up well but the whole team struggled to create many chances of note against a determined defence led ably by Škrtel who put in a very strong display.
Jack Wilshere—a player who clearly needs to work on his fitness instead of struggling in a major international tournament—didn't do much as the replacement for Wayne Rooney. Then again, Rooney didn't do much as the replacement for Wilshere. England had so much of the ball, but as cleverly pointed Slaven Bilić out after the game, Slovakia were more than happy for England to dominate possession.
There were a few moments of note. Vardy was clear on goal only to shoot straight at Slovakia goalkeeper Matúš Kozáčik, Lallana drove at goal to test Kozáčik again after more excellent work from Clyne, Chris Smalling nearly gifted Slovakia with a shock lead, and Škrtel cleared off the line from Alli.
Henderson looked more like his old self, full of industry and popping up in interesting positions in the opposition half. A very good display from Liverpool's captain. Lallana was tidy and diligent, Sturridge didn't get injured, and Clyne was England's most reliable attacking outlet. Qualification secured, but after Wales dismissed a poor Russia side three-nil, England will have to settle for second place.
Wales will play a third-placed team from either Group A, Group C, or Group D. England will play the team that finishes second in Group F, including Cristiano Ronaldo and his underwhelming Portugal side. Slovakia, however, must wait to find out if four points and goal difference of zero is enough to qualify in third. Russia are going home.