Henderson struggled as captain

Handing the captain’s armband to Jordan Henderson was a logical decision given his seniority in the squad and leadership experience at Liverpool. But the midfielder shrunk badly on the night, completing failing to adjust to the demands of being one of a central two alongside the more defensively sound Eric Dier.
Henderson’s lack of defensive positioning saw him leave his midfield cohort isolated on a couple of occasions, while his composure on the ball lacked the quality expected from him and his ridiculous no-look back-pass in the second half should have resulted in a goal for Josip Ilicic.
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Jordan Henderson

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Dier was hardly brilliant alongside his skipper, but Henderson’s role in the side was to link defence with attack and he failed to achieve that, sitting far too deep while simultaneously failing to effectively shield his centre-backs.
This was not a night to remember for the new England skipper.

Southgate's baffling substitutions

The initial team selection by Gareth Southgate didn’t please everybody, but it did at least make sense in terms of shape. However, it didn’t take long to see that Daniel Sturridge was woefully out of form, while the lack of attacking involvement of Theo Walcott and – to a lesser extent – Jesse Lingard was leaving England without a threat in wide areas.
Bringing on Andros Townsend for Walcott in the second half was a step in the right direction, but it was a big surprise that Jamie Vardy made the trip to Slovenia and didn’t even take his training top off, with Rooney bizarrely subbed on in place of Alli – one of the brightest players in an admittedly lacklustre England front-line.

England's Wayne Rooney looks dejected at the end of the match

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Alli and Lingard’s movement was the one cause for optimism early on for the visitors, but removing the Spurs man took away that subtlety from the England attack, with final substitute Marcus Rashford left isolated and with nobody picking out his clever runs down the channels.
Southgate is on the verge of getting it right, but his changes missed the mark.

Sturridge's slump continues

At his best, Daniel Sturridge is the most naturally talented striker that England have at their disposal. But he has not been at his best for some time and it was strange that he was picked to lead the line in both England games during this international break given his sub-standard displays for Liverpool in the opening months of the season.
At his worst, Sturridge is a ball-hogger who tries too much and slows down his team’s attacking play, and that was the player that England got against Slovenia. So ineffective was the Liverpool striker that his team-mates became visibly frustrated with his performance and it was a blessed relief for those watching when he was replaced by Rashford – whose late cameo only further highlighted Sturridge’s deficiencies.

Don't write off Northern Ireland

It was always likely Northern Ireland would endure a difficult night in Germany and, in fairness to Joachim Low’s team, the 2-0 score-line didn’t reflect the home side’s superiority.
There were plenty of positives for Michael O’Neill to take from the game, however, and his side showed enough to indicate they have the quality to challenge for a play-off place in Group D.
The two goals conceded before the 20th minute were preventable but ultimately proved a wake-up call. O’Neill’s charges could have completely crumbled but instead showed character and improved massively thereafter.

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley in action with Germany's Thomas Muller

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The defensive pairing of Aaron Hughes and Jonny Evans in defence proved difficult for Germany to breach while in attack lone-striker Joshua Magennis silenced his critics with an impressive performance.
Azerbaijan appear to be the unlikely challengers for second spot but Northern Ireland must be favourites to emerge victorious when the sides meet at Windsor Park next month. Meanwhile, Czech Republic have been terrible since qualifying for the European Championships and Norway found it difficult to beat San Marino.
Germany will undoubtedly run away as group winners but don’t rule out the Green and White Army as play-off contenders.

Slovakia's Mak attack shows they are back!

Slovakia's opening group game against England left pretty much everyone uninspired and it will now only be remembered as Sam Allardyce's only match as England manager. It was also part of a run that saw Slovakia lose three, draw one and score none.

Slovakia's Robert Mak celebrates scoring their first goal with Jakub Holubek

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They put that behind them with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Scotland on Tuesday. Scotland were bad, abject even, fuelling speculation about Gordon Strachan's future, but Slovakia were also very good. Robert Mak scored a brace and set-up the third and team looked well organised and a threat on the counter. If England are to qualify from this group as winners Big Sam's win in the first game will probably play a crucial role as Slovakia look to hit top gear as the group progresses.
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