KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING: The expansion of finals tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship – offering more nations more opportunities on the grand stages plus more money all round – has had a negative effect on the overall sporting context.

France and Netherlands in UEFA Euro Group D and England in Group C all went into their final matches already assured of progress to the knockout stage courtesy of the system which also promoted the four best third-placed teams. In the end England were the ones to finish top of their group after a poor 0-0 draw against Slovenia in Cologne.

Such was the disappointment with England’s opening performances that manager Gareth Southgate and his players had been under heavy pressure to not only beat Slovenia but make amends for the unrest sparked by the victory over Serbia and draw with Denmark. They crawl on but the depression among media and fans over the performance will only deepen.

Southgate made one change to his starting line-up, bringing Conor Gallagher into midfield in place of Trent Alexander-Arnold who had failed to convince in his experimental role alongside Declan Rice.

The first half brought little improvement. Too many passes were inaccurate again and it was more than half an hour before England managed any shots against a disciplined Slovene defence in 4-4-2 mode. Captain Harry Kane and then Phil Foden, from a free kick, delivered efforts which Jan Oblak had no difficulty in saving.

England benefited from an injection of energy with the halftime replacement of Gallagher by Kobbie Mainoo, but still failed to find the route to a shooting chance, never mind a route to goal. The late arrivals of Cole Palmer and Antony Gordon sharpened up the attacking effort but failed to create any more serious problems for Oblak.

Slovenia, believing that third place was sufficient to take them into the knockout stage of a major tournament for the first time, were the only ones with anything to celebrate.