England secured the top spot in Group D with a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic in London on Tuesday to enter the round of 16 at Euro 2020 in high spirits.
Raheem Sterling scored the sole goal of the match by heading in a superb assist by Jack Grealish.
The Three Lions remain in London for their round of 16 games on Tuesday and will face the second-placed team in Group F.
This means they can face world champions France, holders Portugal or Germany. “At some point, you have to face the best teams. It is about challenging yourselves,” Sterling said regarding the possible opponents.
The Czechs finished third to secure a spot in the knock-out round in spite of being edged out on goals scored by Croatia, who won 3-1 against Scotland. The Scots, in fourth, say goodbye to the tournament.
Sterling hit the post right after kick-off but he did not miss his chance in the 12th minute to open the scoring.
Jack Grealish bamboozled two Czech players before assisting Sterling’s simple header into the net.
England saw Harry Kane denied by goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik’s stretched left arm just before Jordan Pickford made a flying save to keep England ahead. Pickford, however, just watched when Tomas Soucek sent a dangerous effort narrowly wide of the far post.
England’s tempo dropped in the second period, while the Czechs were also not very inspired after the break. Their top scorer at the tournament Patrik Schick was isolated upfront. His replacement, Tomas Pekhart, had the first serious attempt at goal of the second half in the 83rd minute and shot wide.
England, on the other hand, scored with Jordan Henderson but his goal was ruled out for offside. “I think there are positives from the game. We kept the ball better today. It gave us more attacking options,” Sterling said.
Sterling praised young team-mate Bukayo Saka, who almost reached Grealish’s cross to head in the first goal. “I thought Bukayo Saka was brilliant. I told him after the game that he got in the pockets of space, drove at people, he was direct and that’s what you need.”
Saka, chosen as Man of the Match, said the “manager told me to go out and express myself” and emphasised it was important the team would remain at Wembley. “We have a lot of confidence playing here and the fans are like an extra man for us,” he said.
Manager Gareth Southgate was “super impressed” with Saka and was satisfied with his team.
“We wanted to win the group and we wanted to stay at Wembley —- we’ll wait and see who we play,” he said. England missed Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell because the pair went into self-isolation.
This had followed their interaction with Chelsea team-mate Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus after England played Scotland last Friday. They are set to be released from quarantine on Tuesday.
Czech Republic coach Jaroslav Silhavy said they were expecting “early pressure and it came. For the goal that we conceded, we did not cover Sterling at all.” But he added they had to “look at it positively” as the team achieved what they wanted. “We qualified with a game to spare and competed against England for first place,” Silhavy said.