PARIS (AP) — Wales qualified for the knockout stages of the European Championship as a group winner after it overwhelmed Russia 3-0 on Monday and England could only grind out a 0-0 draw with Slovakia.
In its first international tournament since the 1958 World Cup, Wales ended Group B with six points, one ahead of England, which also qualifies for the round of 16. With four points on the board, Slovakia still has a chance to make it to the knockout stages as one of the best third-place teams.
Wales was dominant against a disappointing Russia side, producing an impressive counterattacking display that rested on more than just its talisman, Gareth Bale, the tournament’s top scorer after three goals in three matches.
“As a nation geographically we are small, but if you judge us by passion you could say we were a continent tonight,” Wales coach Chris Coleman said. “These players keep delivering moments that I think they’re not going to top, and they’ve done it again tonight in all fairness.”
Next up for Wales, once the other group matches have been completed, will be a team that finished its group in third-place. While Coleman will prepare for the last 16, Russia coach Leonid Slutsky gave a strong hint that he won’t be at the helm for much longer as the country readies to host the 2018 World Cup.
“I think after a type of tournament like this, you need someone else to take charge of the national side for major competitions,” he said via a translator. For England, there was frustration about its failure to top the group especially after it had come from behind to beat Wales 2-1 in its previous game.
Coach Roy Hodgson took a gamble in team selection by dropping six players from the victory over Wales, including captain Wayne Rooney. The gamble failed to pay off, even though his team kept the pressure up throughout the game and managed 30 shots. Slovakia, knowing a point could be enough to advance, rarely played in England’s final third.
“Finishing second is a disappointment,” Hodgson conceded. “But we are still in the last 16 and who is to say the team we will play will be that much stronger? You just don’t know. The way we are playing, I am not frightened of anybody.”
The final round of group matches continues with four matches on Tuesday. In Group C, Ukraine, which has already been knocked out of Euro 2016, takes on Poland in Marseille, while Northern Ireland meets world champion Germany at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
In Group D, the Czech Republic meets Turkey in Lens while Croatia takes on two-time defending champion and already-qualified Spain in Bordeaux.