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'Another step in the right direction' – Stones and Kane see England improvements despite bore draw

'Another step in the right direction' Stones and Kane see England improvements despite bore draw

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England were unconvincing yet again as they drew 0-0 with Slovenia, but John Stones and Harry Kane said there were clear improvements.

John Stones understands the frustration of England supporters, but firmly believes the Three Lions are on the right track.

England drew 0-0 with Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday, though with Denmark drawing against Serbia by the same scoreline, Gareth Southgate's team still topped Group C.

That means they avoid a last-16 tie with hosts Germany and find themselves in what appears to be the kinder side of the draw, also evading Portugal, France and Spain.

England had 74% possession and recorded 12 shots, though their expected goals (xG) value of 0.87 shows clear chances were once again at a premium.

Their possession figure is the highest the Three Lions have had in a single match at a major tournament without scoring (since Opta have tracked such data, from 1966 onwards for the World Cup, and 1980 for the Euros).

That being said, England's combined 1.13 xG against through their three matches is the lowest of any team in the tournament, as they continue to impress defensively.

And Stones feels there were clear improvements from the opening two fixtures.

Speaking to ITV Sport, Stones said: "Well, we wanted to win, but the objective was to top the group and we've done that, so I'm extremely pleased.

"It's not always going to be easy, especially not when everyone's got a target on our back to beat us.

"Two clean sheets out of three, a great positive for us to take into the next stage, and there was a lot of improvement from the other two games. We were free-flowing, we found the pockets [of space], created more chances, and I believe it's another step in the right direction.

"I can understand some of the fans' frustration with us not scoring, or not taking chances, that's football."

Stones, who is the only outfield player to have started all 22 matches for England at major tournaments under Southgate, added that the squad will be critical of their own displays, however.

"[We're] very close [to clicking]," he continued.

"We've got to focus on us and what we can control, and be harsh on ourselves about the game, what we could have done better. I do feel we took a step in the right direction. Not the result we wanted but I'm so pleased we top the group.

"We've got to beat whoever is put in front of us. No matter who we play, we've got to believe and step up when it counts."

Captain Harry Kane echoed his team-mate's sentiment.

Kane said: "That was the aim before the start of the tournament. Come top of the group and control our destiny. I thought we played a lot better than the other games. We couldn't just find that finish but we look forward to the next one.

"We created some half chances and there were some that we could maybe have done better.

"These games are tough. We have been here before and stepped it up in the past when we have got to the knockouts. All games in this tournament are tough. It is going to be a difficult challenge ahead and we have enough ability to keep pushing."

England will face either the Netherlands or any of the four teams from Group E in the next round.

Slovenia, meanwhile, will go through as one of the best third-placed sides, with Croatia from Group B officially eliminated as a result of Tuesday's matches.

'Another step in the right direction' Stones and Kane see England improvements despite bore draw

England were unconvincing yet again as they drew 0-0 with Slovenia, but John Stones and Harry Kane said there were clear improvements.

John Stones understands the frustration of England supporters, but firmly believes the Three Lions are on the right track.

England drew 0-0 with Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday, though with Denmark drawing against Serbia by the same scoreline, Gareth Southgate's team still topped Group C.

That means they avoid a last-16 tie with hosts Germany and find themselves in what appears to be the kinder side of the draw, also evading Portugal, France and Spain.

England had 74% possession and recorded 12 shots, though their expected goals (xG) value of 0.87 shows clear chances were once again at a premium.

Their possession figure is the highest the Three Lions have had in a single match at a major tournament without scoring (since Opta have tracked such data, from 1966 onwards for the World Cup, and 1980 for the Euros).

That being said, England's combined 1.13 xG against through their three matches is the lowest of any team in the tournament, as they continue to impress defensively.

And Stones feels there were clear improvements from the opening two fixtures.

Speaking to ITV Sport, Stones said: "Well, we wanted to win, but the objective was to top the group and we've done that, so I'm extremely pleased.

"It's not always going to be easy, especially not when everyone's got a target on our back to beat us.

"Two clean sheets out of three, a great positive for us to take into the next stage, and there was a lot of improvement from the other two games. We were free-flowing, we found the pockets [of space], created more chances, and I believe it's another step in the right direction.

"I can understand some of the fans' frustration with us not scoring, or not taking chances, that's football."

Stones, who is the only outfield player to have started all 22 matches for England at major tournaments under Southgate, added that the squad will be critical of their own displays, however.

"[We're] very close [to clicking]," he continued.

"We've got to focus on us and what we can control, and be harsh on ourselves about the game, what we could have done better. I do feel we took a step in the right direction. Not the result we wanted but I'm so pleased we top the group.

"We've got to beat whoever is put in front of us. No matter who we play, we've got to believe and step up when it counts."

Captain Harry Kane echoed his team-mate's sentiment.

Kane said: "That was the aim before the start of the tournament. Come top of the group and control our destiny. I thought we played a lot better than the other games. We couldn't just find that finish but we look forward to the next one.

"We created some half chances and there were some that we could maybe have done better.

"These games are tough. We have been here before and stepped it up in the past when we have got to the knockouts. All games in this tournament are tough. It is going to be a difficult challenge ahead and we have enough ability to keep pushing."

England will face either the Netherlands or any of the four teams from Group E in the next round.

Slovenia, meanwhile, will go through as one of the best third-placed sides, with Croatia from Group B officially eliminated as a result of Tuesday's matches.

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