LONDON — England beat the Czech Republic to win Group D and clinch a last 16 game at Wembley Stadium.
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Raheem Sterling scored the only goal of the game as the Three Lions came flying out of the traps and never looked in danger of relinquishing their lead. They secured seven points from their three group games and didn’t concede a goal.
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England’s fans wanted a better performance than the opening two group games, and they got it, as Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka were sharp and England will now face one of France, Germany, Portugal or Hungary in the last 16 on Tuesday, June 29.
As for Czech Republic, they finished third and will now have to wait to see who they play in the last 16. They will play one of Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Slovakia, Sweden or Poland in the last 16.
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3 things we learned, Czech Republic – England
1. Grealish, Saka take their chance: They were given their chance in attack and they took it. Saka found Grealish who set up Sterling to put England ahead and they gave the Three Lions extra creativity in attack. They seemed to get the best out of Kane too, which is key. There has been uproar in England about Grealish not starting more and given Mason Mount’s isolation situation, Grealish will surely start the last 16 game too. Sure, Czech Republic didn’t sit back and they allowed England more space on the counter, unlike Scotland, but Grealish and Saka did all they could to keep their starting spot.
2. England’s defensive unit impresses: With Harry Maguire back alongside John Stones and Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw at full back, England looked solid. This should be their go-to back four. Jordan Pickford pulled off one good stop and has been really good in this tournament, as England have yet to concede a goal. The Czech Republic had a couple of speculative efforts but nothing more than that. With some great attacking teams to face in the last 16, it’s important England are playing well at the back.
3. Czech Republic may have better route: Even though they finished third in the group, it feels like the Czechs may have actually been handed the easier route in the knockout rounds. Instead of facing one of Germany, Portugal, France or Hungary, they will instead face one of Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Slovakia, Sweden or Poland. Based on what we’ve seen so far, we could be seeing this Czech Republic side stick around until at least the quarterfinals. They are solid at the back and have dangerous weapons in attack.
Man of the Match: Bukayo Saka – Caused so many problems with his trickery and involved in Sterling’s goal. Very lively display.
England almost got off to the perfect start as a brilliant ball over the top from Luke Shaw set Sterling free and he lobbed Tomas Vaclik, but the ball bounced off the post and away as most of Wembley was already celebrating.
John Stones then nodded over as England pushed hard for an opener, and soon it arrived.
Bukayo Saka got free on the right with a lovely turn and the ball found its way to Jack Grealish who clipped in a perfect cross for Sterling to head home and send Wembley wild.
🔥 Raheem Sterling heads home at the back post, as England take the lead against Czech Republic!
— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) June 22, 2021
Harry Kane went close to putting England 2-0 up as he cut inside but his shot was saved by Vaclik.
At the other end Jordan Pickford did really well to deny Tomas Holes from distance, then Tomas Soucek smashed wide, as the Czech Republic came back into the game.
Luke Shaw’s deflected cross almost snuck in as the game opened up in the first half.
In the second half it was extremely tight, as England sat back and soaked up pressure but Czech Republic barley threatened as Tomas Pekhart scuffed a shot just wide.
England had a few chances late on but they eased to victory and managed to get Jordan Henderson (who had a goal ruled out for offside), Jude Bellingham, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford minutes.