London (AFP) – England clinched first place in Euro 2020 Group D with a 1-0 win against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the Wembley clash:
Grealish and Saka sparkle
Jack Grealish seized his chance as the England midfielder celebrated his first major tournament start by providing the assist for Raheem Sterling’s winner.
After struggling to convince England boss Gareth Southgate of his worth earlier in the season, Grealish had forced his way into the Euro squad, but was given only one 27-minute substitute appearance against Scotland in the first two games.
At last bowing to the wishes of England fans who have made Grealish their cult hero, Southgate handed the Aston Villa playmaker a start in place of the self-isolating Mason Mount.
It was just six minutes before the most fouled player in the Premier League was chopped down as the Czechs tried to intimidate Grealish.
He has never been cowed by that kind of treatment and got revenge in the 12th minute.
Picked out by Harry Kane on the left edge of the Czech area, Grealish jinked past two defenders before lofting a perfectly-flighted cross to the far post, where Raheem Sterling headed his second goal of the tournament.
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka had laid the foundations for Sterling’s opener with a dynamic dash down the right flank.
Saka was playing in place of Phil Foden, who Southgate rested to avoid the Manchester City star getting a booking that would rule him out of the last 16.
Saka scored his first England goal in a pre-tournament friendly against Austria, but he was still a surprise choice ahead of the more experienced Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.
Like Grealish, the dynamic 19-year-old brought purpose and poise to the England attack.
Both were less influential in the second half, but they have staked a claim for more action as the tournament progresses.
Fresh frustration for Kane
Harry Kane endured fresh frustration as the England captain’s Euro goal drought stretched to three games.
Questions have been mounting about Kane’s place after the Tottenham striker was substituted following lethargic displays against Croatia and Scotland games.
Southgate insists Kane has been England’s “best and most influential player for a long period of time”.
However, Kane has scored just two goals in his past 12 appearances for England.
The Premier League’s top scorer this season had not managed a single shot on target in the first two games and when he finally broke that drought in the 23rd minute he will feel he should have scored.
Racing onto Harry Maguire’s long pass, Kane cut inside for a shot that Tomas Vaclik saved with an out-stretched hand.
Given the full 90 minutes this time, Kane was on the periphery for long periods and Southgate will be desperate for his talisman to find his form in the last 16.
Maguire back in the groove
Harry Maguire showed no signs of rust as the England defender seamlessly returned to action after missing the first two group games as he recovered from ankle ligament damage.
Southgate gambled by selecting Maguire in his Euro squad even though he was not certain to be fit following the injury he sustained playing for Manchester United at Aston Villa in May.
But Maguire completed his comeback in time to be on the bench against Scotland on Friday and he replaced Tyrone Mings at centre-back against the Czechs.
“I think he has been the outstanding English defender in the league this season. He has been such a bedrock for us,” Southgate said.
Maguire repaid Southgate’s faith as he kept dangerous Czech striker Patrik Schick quiet and blocked Tomas Soucek’s goalbound shot after England failed to clear a corner.
England have kept clean-sheets in every group stage match at a major tournament for only the third time.
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