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Ill feeling and mediocrity but rays of hope from elsewhere
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Ill feeling and mediocrity but rays of hope from elsewhere

England saved the most ambitious act of a grim night in Cologne until last when they went over to applaud their furious fans despite knowing the wave of hostility awaiting them.

The chorus of jeering that greeted the half-time whistle doubled in volume at the end of another desperate display in the goalless draw with Slovenia that ensured they finished top of Group C at Euro 2024.

Inevitably, supporters who had backed England magnificently during the game, gave vent to their feelings, manager Gareth Southgate’s applause being met by plastic beer glasses aimed in his direction.

England finished top of Group C but any positive feelings were dredged away by another performance which made a mockery of them being touted among the favourites.

It was another desperate 90 minutes in England's company at a tournament where they have barely started, this stalemate against the side ranked 57th in the world only a slight improvement on the abysmal draw with Denmark after the patchy win against Serbia.

England are performing so poorly they are becoming accustomed to the resounding raspberry that greeted them from their followers at the end, the booing in danger of becoming their backing track in Germany.

Ironically, in among the ill-feeling and mediocrity, unlikely rays of hope appeared from elsewhere.

It sums up England's Euro 2024 so far that their highlight has not actually been any of their doing, rather the fates smiling on them as results in other groups dictated that the dangerous quartet of hosts Germany, France, Portugal and Spain have dropped into the other half of the draw.

All well and good - except that England have not looked anywhere near good enough to take advantage of the opportunity presented.

On what we have seen so far, if you gave England a mile they would take an inch.

England cannot meet any of those four countries until the final in Berlin on 14 July but that very notion is stretching credibility to breaking point, so poor have Southgate's side been.

Southgate talked about a reset but this was more of the same from an England side short on energy, inspiration and threat, their best move of the game being a slick passing exchange between Declan Rice and Phil Foden that ended with Bukayo Saka's close-range finish being ruled out for offside.

England made all the right noises before kick-off, adopting a siege mentality following criticism after drawing with the Danes, but if they intended to answer their detractors they have saved it for another day.

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