Alan Shearer: ‘We have to accept this is England’s identity’

England are into the quarter-finals of Euro 2024 and ultimately that is all that matters but, for 95 minutes, that was a desperate performance against Slovakia, writes Alan Shearer on the BBC Sport website.

I was watching it thinking it was Iceland and Euro 2016 all over again, because we were just as bad as we were in that embarrassing defeat, but then Jude Bellingham has saved us with a world-class finish.

Up until then, we had been awful. You never give up hope in any game when you are only 1-0 down, but there were next to no signs that we were going to find an equaliser from anywhere until that piece of brilliance. The feeling was pure relief.

That was the first shot we had on target, which is a dismal statistic when you consider the quality of our players and the level of opposition that we were up against, but it was the one that mattered.

When Harry Kane got another goal to put us ahead – with our only other shot on target of the 120 minutes, by the way – you are thinking ‘go and finish the game off’ but instead we sat back straight away, and came under huge pressure.

It was another hard watch from then on until the final whistle. No-one wants to see us drop deep like that, but we have to accept that is the way Gareth Southgate wants us to play.

The evidence is there now that this is who we are, and this is our identity in major finals.

Everyone is crying out for him to give us some attacking football, but his England side have played like this in previous tournaments too – and it got us to the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020. He is not going to change now.

The biggest positive to take away from Sunday’s game is that England found a way.

Knockout football is just about getting through to the next round regardless of your performance and somehow – I still don’t know exactly how – we have done that.

In four games and close to 400 minutes on the pitch at this tournament, we have not played well other than for the first half-hour of our opening match against Serbia.

But the thing in all four of those games is that there has always been a ‘but’ along with how poor we have been, and the big ‘but’ now is that we have won and are into the last eight.