The permutations around England and their route to the last-16 after disappointing openers

2 min read

Well, it certainly hasn’t started great, has it? A slender 1-0 win over Serbia in England’s opening group game – where the Three Lions spent large parts of the second half cheaply squandering possession and clinging on for dear life – was followed up with one of the poorest performances I have seen this England side produce at a major tournament under Gareth Southgate. 

Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Denmark was both disappointing and unconvincing. After taking the lead through a Harry Kane goal inside 18 minutes, England once again failed to capitalise on the momentum gained from going ahead and found themselves pegged back on the edge of their own area whilst Denmark launched the kitchen sink at the sea of white shirts banked up in front of them, attempting to protect their goal. Eventually, the Scandinavians’ ravenous press and determined attacking strategy paid dividends, with a wonder strike from midfielder Morten Hjulmand levelling proceedings just 16 minutes after Kane broke the deadlock. 

A goalless second half saw the game end honours even and has left England with more questions than answers heading into the final group game against Slovenia on Tuesday. The Three Lions remain in a strong position at the top of Group C, with four points to their name and an unbeaten record so far in Germany, but Tuesday’s result will determine whether they progress through to the last-16 as group winners, runners-up or as one of the best-placed teams who finish third. 

A victory for England in Cologne will secure their place in the last-16 as winners of Group C, where they will play one of the third-placed teams from Group D, E or F. Exactly which country England could potentially play will be dependent upon how many points those teams amass in their individual groups.

With so many moving parts in play, it is impossible to predict who will finish third in those groups, but the teams they are made up of in their current order of points obtained (at the time of writing) is as follows: 

Group D





Group E 





Group F 



Czech Republic


The alternative route for England will be much harder. Should they draw with Slovenia and finish second, it would mean almost certainly facing Germany in the last-16. The host nation have won both of their group games so far – thrashing Scotland 5-1 before easing past Hungary 2-0 – and look solid contenders to go the distance in July. 

Given how England have performed in this European Championship, it is difficult to envisage them repeating their exploits at Euro 2020 and defeating Julian Nagelsmann’s robust outfit, spearheaded by the ever-dazzling Jamal Musiala. 

There is a very slim chance that the Germans lose to Switzerland in their final group game on Sunday, though, and if that were to happen then England would face off against the Swiss in the last-16 should they progress through by finishing second in Group C. A much easier tie in prospect, though England’s performances must improve if they are to stand a chance of winning that potential fixture irrespective of the glaring difference in quality personnel. 

The third and final scenario, which at this moment does feel unlikely but is not completely off the table, is England losing to Slovenia and finishing third in the group. Should this transpire – and Denmark do as expected and beat Serbia on Tuesday – both Denmark and Slovenia will finish on five points and therefore qualify for the first knockout phase as group winners and runners up. 

This particular scenario unfolding would be far from ideal but it would not mean that Gareth Southgate’s men would exit the tournament, it just provides them with a difficult draw in the last-16. England finishing third in Group C would mean they would have to play the winner of Group F or the winner of Group E – which will most likely be one of Portugal, Belgium or, best case scenario, Slovakia. 

All to play for, then, and eyes now firmly set on Tuesday’s battle against Slovenia. 

Group C – current standings

  1. England, 4pts
  2. Denmark, 2pts
  3. Slovenia, 2pts
  4. Serbia, 1pt

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