EURO 2020- ENGLAND VS CZECH REPUBLIC: 3 THINGS WE LEARNED
SRINIVAS SADHANAND | 23rd June 2021
Raheem Sterling scored his second goal at Euro 2020 to ensure England top Group D and make light work of the surprise package of the tournament in Czech Republic.
In a game that was a standard 1-0, MTAG: More Than A Game have managed to muster up 3 talking points because well, we’re talking England here.
Let’s jump into it.
Bukayo Saka: Man of The Match
Let’s get something out of the way: Jadon Sancho should have started, on merit after the stupendous campaigns he has managed to rack up for Dortmund. But the collective scoff at Bukayo Saka’s name on the teamsheet was not only harsh but completely discounting how the 19-year old has dragged Arsenal almost singlehandedly all season.
And at Wembley, the London lad shushed his critics in familiar surroundings with a Man of The Match display. Driving past the Czech Republic midfield like they weren’t there, Saka set the pace for Raheem Sterling’s opener in the 12th minute. And he was only getting warmed up.
‘Little Chilli’, as he’s dubbed by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang turned up the heat when all eyes were on him, dancing past the Czechs with his sublime close control and dynamite dribbling while once again showcasing that his decision-making would make you think he’s a veteran in the game.
Number of dribbles completed:
• Bukayo Saka – 5
• The rest of the England & Czech Republic starting XI players combined – 4
Saka’s ball-carrying was key to the victory 🔥 pic.twitter.com/zSdjF8H6kO
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) June 22, 2021
Be it from the right or setting pace from the centre, Bukayo’s versatility, especially spatially came through as the opposition couldn’t lay a glove on him.
Simply, a stunning footballer who guarantees himself a start in the Round of 16.
Jack Grealish makes England tick
A Jack Grealish start and an England win is never a coincidence. One comes after the other- it’s quick maths.
It really doesn’t take a genius to come to the conclusion that there isn’t a more impactful player in a Three Lions shirt than the Aston Villa skipper, every time he takes the pitch. And with what seemed like the entire world yearning to see England’s No.10 start from the off, Grealish delivered while he was at it.
It took just 12 minutes for English football’s newfound rockstar to set Sterling up with a peach of a cross to make it 1-0 and that too, with his weaker left peg.
And aside from his tremendous dribbling and being one of the most watchable players on the planet, what stands out about Grealish is how he never looks out of place, regardless of the circumstances, tactics or XI.
Carrying Villa on his back, week in, week out? Check. Injecting life into a lifeless England side? Double check.
And as he leads, the others follow. If the modern-day answer to Gazza drifts from the left to the right flank, drops deep or operates in the hole, the likes of Saka and Sterling follow suit. Harry Kane can play his natural game of taking deeper positions because Grealish is always available for a pass when the England captain can’t spot a Hollywood ball to put through.
He’ll waltz past you, win a foul, play the game at the pace of a sports car as well as a two-wheeler, as and when the situation calls for it.
Super Jack Grealish.
That 2nd half should be a cause for concern for the Three Lions
Despite signs of a Czech fightback in the final 15 minutes of the first 45, England looked comfortable enough to be snug. After finally getting the fans off their seats at Wembley after a brimming first-half, the 2nd was equally drab.
And surprisingly so, considering Gareth Southgate finally seemed to have stumbled on to the recipe to make England a spicy prospect and Jordan Henderson replacing Declan Rice for the 2nd 45. Yet, the English looked like they’d gone through all their gears and just came along for the ride after half-time, worryingly enough.
England accumulated 0.00(xG) in the second half of this evening’s match.
— The xG Philosophy (@xGPhilosophy) June 22, 2021
While the likes of Grealish and Saka’s brilliance, Sterling being clutch again and the impressive return of Maguire are things to smile about, it isn’t all rosy. This England side look light years away from pulling off a Germany and that too against a calibre of teams that couldn’t hold a candle to one of the competition’s favourites in Portugal.
Whether it is a case of the Three Lions being content with their 1-goal cushion or just an uninspiring half of football, one of either Germany, France or Portugal await in the Round of 16 where sluggishness will be slaughtered.