Raheem Sterling’s early header enabled England to overhaul their opponents and claim first place in Group D.
Raheem Sterling’s early header proved enough to earn England a victory against the Czech Republic at Wembley that took Gareth Southgate’s side into the round of 16 as Group D winners.
Match in brief
Needing to win to overtake the Czechs and claim first place in Group D, England began positively with Sterling lobbing against the post as early as the second minute. Ten minutes later he did have his goal, Jack Grealish twisting and turning down the left before lifting the ball to the far post where Sterling nodded in.
Harry Kane was then denied by Tomáš Vaclík as England continued to press, but it was by no means one-way traffic. Jordan Pickford’s flying stop denied Tomáš Holeš before Tomáš Souček whipped a shot centimetres wide of the target.
With both teams already through to the round of 16 ahead of kick-off, the tempo dropped in the second half as the two coaches made changes. As news filtered through of Croatia going two goals clear of Scotland, pushing the Czechs down into third place, substitute Tomáš Pekhart flashed a shot just past the post but that was as close as they came to an equaliser.
Star of the Match: Bukayo Saka (England)
“A promising performance in the first half from Saka and the individual run helped make England’s winning goal.”
David Moyes, UEFA Technical Observer
Ondřej Zlámal, Czech Republic reporter
The Czechs expected a tough challenge and duly got one. They were not able to prevent the early goal, which gave England confidence and fluency. However, Jaroslav Šilhavý’s side never gave up in what proved to be tough preparation for their round of 16 match. They may have dropped down to third place thanks to Croatia’s win, but qualifying from a challenging group with a match to spare is no mean feat.
Simon Hart, England reporter
England gave us a dynamic first-half display, full of pace and movement, and rewarded with Sterling’s second goal of this EURO. Saka and Grealish both justified their inclusion with the part each played in the goal while, at the other end, the return of Harry Maguire after his 44-day absence was another positive for Southgate as he starts planning for the last 16 back here at Wembley, where England have now won 17 of their last 19 matches.
Raheem Sterling, England forward: “We kept the ball better today and found the gaps well, and got the result we needed. Saka and Grealish got in the pockets really well, turned and got on the ball and it’s brilliant to have players around you who can create goals. That’s part of tournament football, different players for different matches. If you don’t concede goals, you win football matches if you can score at the other end – and we’ve been doing that really well.”
Bukayo Saka, England midfielder: “It was a really good performance from us tonight – we played some good stuff at times. The manager told me to express myself like I have been doing for my club all season. It was a great cross from Jack and Raheem was there for the goal – I almost got there but just not quite tall enough! It’s important for us to be at Wembley, we have a lot of confidence playing here and the fans are like an extra man for us. It’s a real boost for us.”
Gareth Southgate, England head coach: “The Czechs are a really good side, they use the ball really well and they’re difficult to break down, but there’s more to come from us. We’re not fluent, but we have moments when we look a good side. There’s a lot of good things that we’re doing and a lot of positives for us. We wanted to win the group and we wanted to stay at Wembley – we’ll wait and see who we play.”
Jaroslav Šilhavý, Czech Republic coach: “When Saka and Sterling sprinted with the ball, it was very hard to stop them. For the goal that we conceded, we did not cover Sterling at all. We expected early pressure and it came. England went after an early goal and scored it. We qualified with a game to spare and competed against England for first place. We have to look at it positively – we achieved what we wanted.”
Tomáš Souček, Czech Republic midfielder: “We could have got more out of this. We did not start well – England dominated, especially in the first half. We improved in the second half, which was more equal, but we lacked calmness around the penalty box. We should have created more chances.”