Raheem Sterling scored his second goal of Euro 2020 as England beat the Czech Republic 1-0 to win Group D and ensure they will play at Wembley in the round of 16.
Sterling headed home in the first half of the Three Lions’ final group game to move Gareth Southgate’s side above their opponents and set up a showdown with France, Germany, Portugal or Hungary next Tuesday.
The Czech Republic had their chances and must wait to discover their next opponents after slipping to third as a result of Croatia’s 3-1 win over Scotland.
Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka impressed as they came into the side along with Harry Maguire, who played 90 minutes on his return from an ankle injury for an England side that have not conceded a goal in the tournament.
The Three Lions started with great intensity and they were almost in front when Sterling lobbed Tomas Vaclik but struck the far post after he was picked out by a clever pass from Luke Shaw.
Sterling did not have long to wait for the opening goal, though, nodding home from close range 12 minutes in when the influential Grealish stood up a delightful cross from the left to the back post in a move that started with an incisive run from Saka.
Vaclik denied Harry Kane with a reflex save following a brilliant pass from Maguire, but the Czech Republic also had their chances in an entertaining first half.
Tomas Holes forced a fine reflex save from Jordan Pickford with a powerful strike and Tomas Soucek flashed a shot just wide, before Kane called Vaclik into action once again.
Both sides made a change at the break, Jordan Henderson replacing Declan Rise and Petr Sevcik on for Jakub Jankto.
The Czech Republic suffered a blow when Jan Boril was booked for a foul on the lively Saka, ruling him out of his side’s last-16 tie.
Henderson had a late goal disallowed, but England responded to a lacklustre display in a goalless draw with Scotland with a second 1-0 win of the tournament.
What does it mean? England stay at home with bigger test to come
England progress on the back of keeping clean sheets in every group-stage match at a major tournament for only the third time, also doing so at the 1966 World Cup (three matches) and in the second group stage of the 1982 World Cup (two matches).
They will face the second-placed side in the ‘group of death’ for a place in the quarter-finals and can expect a much tougher assignment than they have faced so far.
The Czech Republic finished below Croatia on goals scored and will face either Belgium, the Netherlands or the winners of Group E.
Saka and Grealish stake strong claims
With Mason Mount self-isolating along with Ben Chilwell after coming into close contact with Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus, and Phil Foden not risked as he had a yellow card to his name, Saka and Grealish grasped their chances with both hands.
They showed the sort of quality England had been lacking against Scotland with their roles for the opening goal. Teenager Saka provided three crosses – the most by a Three Lions player – and Grealish caught the eye in a typically influential display.
Kane made to wait for first goal
Kane was starved of service against Scotland, but the captain will be disappointed not to have opened his account in the last group match.
Yet the usually prolific striker forced an excellent save from Vaclik and had more of an impact on the game.
– England have now reached the knockout stage of the European Championship in each of their last four appearances (also 2004, 2012 and 2016).
– England have topped their group at a European Championship for only the third time, also doing so at Euro 96 and Euro 2012. With just two goals scored, they are the lowest-scoring side to ever finish top of a group at a Euros tournament.
– England have kept 15 clean sheets in their last 19 matches in all competitions, conceding only five goals.
– Since his England debut last September, Grealish has more assists than any other England player (3), despite only playing in nine of the Three Lions’ 15 matches since then.
– Tomas Pekhart’s effort at goal in the 83rd minute for the Czech Republic was the first shot in the second half, the longest wait for a shot in the second half of a European Championship match since 1980, the point from which such records are available.
– England failed to attempt a single shot at goal in the second half of a match for the first time since October 2018 against Spain in a UEFA Nations League match. Their last effort at goal was a Kane attempt in the 26th minute.
– Sterling has been directly involved in 20 goals in his last 19 matches for England (14 goals, 6 assists) and has ended on the winning side in all 12 matches when finding the net for the national team.
– Excluding penalty shootouts, Southgate registered his fifth victory as England manager at a major tournament (Euros and World Cup) – only Alf Ramsey (8) and Sven-Goran Eriksson (7) have won more matches at major tournaments as England manager.
England will have home advantage with an increased capacity of 45,000 when they attempt to secure a place in the quarter-finals, while the Czech Republic must wait and see who they will come up against.
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