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Written by Oluwaseun Oyediji

One of the favourites at UEFA Euro 2024, England have an important match against Slovenia to determine their placement in Group C, either to finish as group leaders or second-placed team depending on the outcome here and results elsewhere between Denmark and Serbia.

There’s pressure on England coming into their final Group C game of Euro 2024 against Slovenia having earned four points from their first two group games ahead of this clash.

Preview

Avoiding defeat will secure their progression to the knockout phase, as would Denmark’s failure to beat Serbia, however, their tame performances in the opening two matches against Serbia (1-0) and the Danes (1-1) have led to heavy criticism of manager Gareth Southgate. 

The biggest issue has been disjointed attacking performances from the Three Lions, and it’s been a recurring theme across their recent displays, even before this summer’s tournament.

They have not scored more than a single goal in any of their past three international matches, while they’ve only netted more than once in two of the last seven fixtures.

England have secured a clean sheet in each of their last three final group stage matches at a European Championship finals.

The two sides have similar form going into this game but Slovenia are unbeaten in their last five games with two wins and three draws as they have drawn their first two games at the UEFA Euro 2024.

The Three Lions have also won two of their last five games with two draws and a loss which came during their last friendly match against Iceland ahead of this tournament.

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England

England won the World Cup in 1966 on home soil, making it one of eight nations to have won the World Cup.

They have qualified for the World Cup sixteen times, with fourth-place finishes in the 1990 and 2018 editions. England has never won the European Championship, with their best performance to date being runners-up in 2020. 

Since winning the 1966 FIFA World Cup, the English senior men's national team title cabinet as been empty despite near attempts including losing the final of Euro 2020 to Italy on penalties. The mantra has been 'Football Coming Home' ever since 1966.

When they hosted the 1996 European championship, they had it in mind to keep the cup at home before the semi final loss to Germany.

Notable players include Peter Shilton who hold the team's record appearance at 125, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Billy Wright, and current captain Harry Kane to mention a few.

Others include Bobby Charlton, Jimmy Greaves, Michale Owen, Nat Lofthouse, Tom Finney, Vivian Woodward, Joe Hart, Daviid Seaman, Gordon Banks, Ray Clemence, Chris Wood, Paul Robinson, Dabid James, Nigel Martyn and other numerous names.

Slovenia

Slovenia have qualified for a major tournament four times, twice for the FIFA World Cup and twice for the UEFA European Championship, but have never progressed beyond the group stage of a finals tournament. Progressing from the group stage remained elusive to the team unless the jinx can be broken at this year's European championship.

At the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Slovenia achieved their first (and so far only) victory in a major tournament, defeating African side, Algeria 1-0. The team have achieved some noteworthy results, such as beating Italy 1-0 in 2004, which was Italy's only defeat in the entire 2006 World Cup campaign (qualifiers and the final tournament).

Bostjan Cesar holds the record for most appearances for Slovenia, having played 101 times between 2003 and 2018. Zlatko Zahovic scored 35 goals for Slovenia and is the record holder for most goals scored.

Notable players that has represented the team either as Yugoslavia include Milenko Acimovic, Serhii Rebrov, Miran Pavlin, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Milan Osterc, Mladen Rudonja, Sebastjan Cimirotic, Dado Prso, Ermin Siljak, Zlatko Dedic, Milivoje Novakovic, Tomaz Kavcic, Sandi Lovric, Benjamin Sesko, amongst other.

Head-to-Head (H2H)

Recent head to head doesn’t hint that will change here either, with just one goal scored in total between these two nations in the last two clashes back in 2016 and 2017 (a win and a draw).  

Although, two points worse off than their opposition, the mood in the Slovenia camp is much different after two draws which have left them with more than a fighting chance of making it to the knockout phase in what is their first European Championship finals appearance in 24 years.

They were denied their first-ever win in the tournament last time out as Serbia netted an equaliser deep into stoppage time (1-1), but that draw still extended their undefeated run to an impressive eight matches (four wins and four draws).

While England will represent much stiffer competition than what they’ve faced at the tournament, Slovenia have shown that they can compete with some of the best.

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Since the turn of the year, they’ve beaten two nations also ranked inside FIFA’s top 11 sides in the form of the United States of America (USA) and Portugal, and perhaps poignantly given England’s attacking woes, they secured a clean sheet in each too. 

Key Performers

Ollie Watkins was called upon to replace England captain Harry Kane last time out with 20 minutes of the game still to go. He looked sharp, and after registering 32 Premier League goal contributions this season for Aston Villa, he might be called upon again here.

Forward Andraz Sporar, who netted in Slovenia’s final warm-up game before the tournament, played 35 times for English side Middlesbrough in 2021/2022 and has seen three of his last four international scoring appearances end level. 

Verdict

A win for England is tenable here given their last five meetings with Slovenia with four wins and a draw which came as a 0-0 draw in a World Cup Qualifiers in 2016 while the last meeting ended 1-0 in favour of England in 2017.

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