Super Sterling powers England into the Round of 16 with crucial win over Czech Republic
In my previous article, I had emphasised a conspiracy theory to justify England’s sub-par performance in the 0-0 outing against The Scots.
The theory was simple, England didn’t plan to top their group to avoid locking horns with the powerhouses of European football in the next round in either of France, Germany or Portugal. Having said this, the fan in me surely hoped for a marked improvement in their next fixture against The Czechs to only keep this as a theory.
Boy, did the fan defeat the theorist with a determined 1-0 showing by The Three Lions to not only beat The Czechs but also top Group D.
With this win, England also reached a small landmark of mounting ten goals and conceding only two in four games contested against The Czechs at their fortress, Wembley.
In truth, I was more than delighted to be rightfully proven wrong on my conspiracy theory!
So, without further ado lets dissect this much-needed shot of confidence, The Three Lions earned heading into the business end of the competition.
Raheem Sterling lights up the first 45
England started this fixture with two key players not in the squad in Mason Mount who was isolating and Phil Foden who was excluded as he sat on a yellow to allow him to be available for the round of 16.
Well, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, and in England’s case it was two, as Arsenal’s young midfielder Bukayo Saka was brought into the playing XI along with Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish in place of Mount and Foden.
And boy, did they make an immediate impact, as only in the 12th minute, Saka hit an overhead cross into the Czech D which was kept alive by Jack Grealish on the left corner as he fed Sterling with a great chip, and the Manchester City forward made no mistake in nodding it in.
The Three Lions were a goal up in no time, a remarkable improvement from their previous fixture where the full 90 couldn’t get them on the score sheet.
As time marched on, England would mount their second effort, this time through captain and talismanic forward Harry Kane with Czech keeper, Vaclik deflecting the ball away.
Moments later, the Czechs had their first attempt on target as Jordan Pickford dived to his left to push the strike away.
Kane would fire his second attempt on target minutes before half time as the shot was again kept out by the resilient keeper, Vaclik.
With no further uncertainties, the first half ended as England led 1-0.
The second 45 fails to excite
One could be excused for taking a break from watching the second half as this contest all but lacked excitement up until the 86th minute when England substitute and Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson drilled one in, only to be adjudged off-side.
England and Henderson were convinced that the goal should have been allowed as the ball was played back to the Liverpool man through a Czech player albeit VAR was firm on its decision to rule it otherwise. Had the goal stood, the Liverpool skipper would have scored his first for the national team in 60 appearances.
As a Liverpool and English fan, with a heavy heart had to accept the no goal.
With this being the only action of any significance in the second 45, England deservedly were the victors with a steady display as time was called on the game.
A tough outing awaits England in the pre-quarters
As a die-hard English faithful, I would have to say England’s performance so far in the group stage has been anything but exciting.
With the solitary two strikes from Sterling leading to two victories, The Three Lions have failed to light up the tournament with goals galore contrary to what was expected with a strong forward line boasting the likes of Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and one of the best centre forwards in world football, Harry Kane.
Speaking about Harry Kane, our captain has looked all but lost in the opposition D this far. I am not sure where the problem is but his finishing has lacked the skill we usually associate with this English talisman.
Yes, our defence has looked solid with no goals conceded and has received a further boost with a fully fit Harry Maguire who played the full 90 yesterday albeit what worries me is the lack of goals scored upfront.
With either of France, Germany or Portugal up next on the 29th, The Three Lions need to be far more decisive and complete to mount the goals we have come to expect of them.
Remember my Dear England, you are now just four games away from lifting the elusive Euro Championship.
Surely this is motivation enough to witness the mighty roar of The Three Lions contrary to the tame meow we have had to bear this far!