Thursday, 29 Sep, 2022


Czech Republic 0-1 England: 'England top group but must find another gear'

Sports Desk |
Update: 2021-06-23 13:40:04
Czech Republic 0-1 England: 'England top group but must find another gear' [photo collected]

England's first Euro 2020 mission was accomplished as they beat the Czech Republic to top Group D and start unbeaten in three games without conceding a goal.

It means they stay at Wembley for their last-16 meeting, which could be against World Cup holders France, old adversaries Germany or current European champions Portugal.

As far as England are concerned, football is staying at home for now - whether it comes home permanently is another matter.

If it is to do so, manager Gareth Southgate must find another gear from his players rather than the occasionally stodgy fare produced in this group stage.

First things first. England would have settled for this outcome before their opener against Croatia in baking Wembley heat.

They might have preferred the three games - beating their conquerors from the 2018 World Cup semi-final, drawing with Scotland or getting this win against the Czechs - to be more pleasing on the eye rather than characterised by long periods of attrition.

For now, though, this will do - but the realists in the England camp will know their next opponents will be a significant upgrade on anything they have faced so far and Southgate's players must respond accordingly.

England may not have produced a statement performance in the manner of Germany, Italy and Belgium, or hinted at greater menace to come like France, but they are exactly where they want to be and Southgate will be satisfied with that.

It has been nowhere near perfect, but it is hardly a cause for doom and gloom either.

Let's start with the positives - and despite the reservations about England's mixed efforts in the group phase there are positives to go at.

Three clean sheets is impressive, and Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford continued his excellent form of recent months with a crucial diving save from Tomas Holas in the first half here.

The sight of Manchester United captain Harry Maguire coming through 90 minutes unscathed after being out since early May with ankle ligament damage will have been a relief to Southgate.

When the going gets tough - as it will against any of England's probable last-16 opponents - England will require experience and leadership. Maguire provides both as well as the extra dimension of distribution and command that almost created a first goal of Euro 2020 for captain Harry Kane.

Southgate has been accused of conservatism in these opening games, as he has used more defensively minded pivots in Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips.

Here, robbed of Chelsea's Mason Mount as he self-isolates after coming into close contact with Scotland's Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for Covid-19 after the second group game, Southgate gave a long-awaited start to Jack Grealish and also brought in Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka.

They were creators-in-chief when the going was good in a lively first 45 minutes.

Source: BBC

BDST: 1339 HRS, JUNE 23, 2021

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