LONDON — Bukayo Saka was the star for England in their win against the Czech Republic, as the 19-year-old dazzled on what he called ‘the biggest night of his career’ so far.
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Saka started for England for the first time at a major tournament to cap an incredible rise through the ranks in the last 12 months both at Arsenal and for his country.
The versatile wide man, who grew up close to Wembley, was lively from the start and was involved in England’s goal as his trickery, direct running and creativity breathed new life into England’s attack.
Asked by ProSoccerTalk about England’s chances at EURO 2020 now they have reached the last 16 — they will face one of France, Germany, Portugal or Hungary at Wembley Stadium next week — Saka was extremely confident this is only the start for the Three Lions this summer.
Saka confident England can kick on
“The objective before was to win the group and qualify and we’ve done that. That’s job done and now it’s on to the next round,” Saka smiled. “Of course it’s going to be much harder teams whoever we face but we can take a lot of confidence from this group, having not conceded a single goal.
“Having played really well in this last game and playing some good attacking football I think going into the [last 16] game, whoever we come up against, we can go into the game with real confidence. Especially with it being at Wembley as well with our fans.”
5 – Bukayo Saka's five completed take-ons are the joint-most by an English teenager at a major tournament since we have full data for the EUROs (1980) and World Cup (1966), equalling Raheem Sterling in 2014 vs Uruguay and Michael Owen in 1998 vs Argentina. Wavy. #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/QAHudQWZ5y
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 22, 2021
Arsenal star dazzles
His versatility as a full back and wing-back at Arsenal saw him initially come into the team as a defender, but he is clearly an attacking threat and Gareth Southgate sees him as a forward.
Playing in front of his family (and England fans for the first time at Wembley) Saka started on the right in this game and the way he cuts inside onto his favored left foot, plus twists and turns around the box, led to the first goal and caused so many problems.
🔥 Raheem Sterling heads home at the back post, as England take the lead against Czech Republic!
Wembley just went bonkers, as the #ThreeLions were rewarded for a superb start. Saka and Grealish created the goal. #CZE 0-1 #ENG #EURO2020 🎥 @ESPNFC pic.twitter.com/rNsg7fm3Hb
— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) June 22, 2021
With many England fans pushing hard for the likes of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho to start, there has been no pressure on Saka. Not that he ever shows it. Now there will be pressure on Southgate to start Sancho.
Over 18 months ago he was just becoming a star for Arsenal and when you talk with. him, he is so nonchalant about his ability, but in a very good way.
England fans will hope the entire team can mirror the confidence Saka has in himself, and those around him.