England Do Bare Minimum to Scrape Win with Czech Republic

Is this England side designed to dazzle for twenty minutes, and then frustrate opponents for the rest of the match? Perhaps. At least, this is what we seemed to learn from their three group games. These have brought the Three Lions 7 points, a place in the Round of 16, and plenty of questions for the England fateful ahead of better opposition.

Chances are that if you have been following the Premier League, the world’s most popular continental competition, you will be familiar with this England side. After all, their star players are signed to the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, or Manchester United.

Are they any good though? Today’s match against Croatia leaves us just as baffled as we were yesterday. Manager Gareth Southgate chose to operate a number of squad changes. Chief of them all was the introduction of mercurial midfielder Jack Grealish. This was the change that fans across the nation had been asking for.

Meanwhile, Jaroslav Silhavy opted to maintain the 4-2-3-1 formation and the squad selection that had earned the Czech Republic four points across their first two encounters. As the game started, all eyes were cast on Patrik Schick, the towering striker that had already netted three for his country. There was little attacking flair on display this time around.

England have impressed in all three of their group matches. For the first 20 minutes. For that time on the field, Southgate’s men looked like a dream team. Tuesday night was no exception. Jack Grealish took it upon himself to dribble and close down the flank. Harry Harry dropped deep for passes. And, Raheem Sterling lobbed the ball gracefully past the goalkeeper and into the post.

In the 12th minute, Grealish floated a cross into the area. Sterling found the space and scored a header, the rarest type of goal produced by the Manchester City forward.

England were raring to go? Only that they weren’t. And, neither was the Czech Republic really. Both teams were confident that they would progress no matter the score. And, even though Southgate knew that a first-place finish in the group would bring them closer to a tougher opponent in the Round of 16 his team valiantly held on.

Meanwhile, Croatia were making light work of Scotland, eventually winning 3-1. The Scotts were out. The rest of the three teams were qualified, albeit without much of a spark between them apart from one sensational goal scored by Patrick Schick in Czech’s opening game.

In London, the rest of the match went on without much fanfare. The Czechs had one shot on goal. It was hardly the ambitious display of a team determined to win on Wembley and tower above their rivals.

The only semi-memorable moment came in the 85th minute. Jordan Henderson nearly scored his first-ever England goal. It was a brief respite of intensity before the strike got flagged outside.

Despite their squad additions, England look about as good as they did in 2018. Then, they reached the World Cup Semi-Finals. They were beaten soundly by a younger Croatia side and never looked like a threat to tougher opposition. Unless the Three Lions have been secretly guarding a tremendously inventive style of football, they look doomed to be swiftly knocked out by tougher opponents.

Czech Republic proved that hard-working teams have a place in the Euros, at least in an inflated format that includes 24 teams. Schick’s goal against Scotland will prove memorable, but his team’s performance at Wembley will not.  



June 22, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Group D

SCORER: 12′ Sterling

CZECH REPUBLIC (4-2-3-1): Vaclik; Coufal, Celustka, Kalas, Boril; Soucek, Holes (84′ Vydra); Masopust (64′ Hlozek), Darida (64′ Kral), Jankto (46′ Sevcik); Schick (76′ Pekhart) (Mandous, Koubek, Kaderabek, Brabec, Barak, Krmencik, Mateju) Coach: Silhavy
ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones (79′ Mings), Maguire, Shaw; Rice (46′ Henderson), Phillips; Saka (84′ Sancho), Grealish (67′ Bellingham), Sterling (67′ Rashford); Kane (Ramsdale, Johnstone, Trippier, Coady, Calvert-Lewin, White, James) Coach: Southgate

REFEREE: Soares Dias (Portugal)
NOTES: Yellow Card: Boril (C); Extra Time: 1st Half 0′, 2nd Half 3′