England took on Czech Republic in Prague in Friday night’s headline Euro 2020 qualifier, with the chance to confirm their place in next year’s competition with a win.
The Three Lions wasted no time getting to business, opening the scoring inside the first five minutes when Harry Kane scored from the penalty spot after Raheem Sterling was tripped following some good link-up play with the England captain.
The Czechs hit back just three minutes later though, Jakub Brabec bundling home from a corner – profiting from some Under-15 level defending from the Three Lions.
That goal seemed to give Czech Republic a shot in the arm, and they began to stamp their authority on the game. England on the other hand, were utterly woeful for the remainder of that first half, failing to create even one half-decent chance.
England improved ever so slightly in the second half, with Southgate changing the system to a 4-3-3. Chances were still far and few between, but Kane continued to be the main source of quality, creating some great chances for Sterling and Jadon Sancho.
However, with five minutes to go, there was a huge sting in the tail. Lukas Masopust took the ball on the right wing, and played in a cross to the unmarked Zdenek Ondrasek in the middle of the penalty area, who slotted home with relative ease among some more abysmal England defending.
England failed to mount any kind of comeback (with Mason Mount, ahem, already taken off), and the Czech Republic claimed a stunning 2-1 victory against a disastrous England team to end the Three Lions’ 43 match unbeaten run in qualifiers.
Starting XI: Vaclik (7); Coufal (6), Celusktka (6), Brabec (7), Boril (6); Soucek (6), Kral (7), Masopust (7), Darida (6), Jankto (6); Schick (6)
Subs: Ondrasek (8*), Kopic (6), Zmrhal (6)
Key Talking Point
England went into this game with the chance of sealing qualification for next year’s European Championships, and would have been looking to put on a show to demonstrate why they should be one of the favourites.
Boy, did they do the opposite. If anything, that performance would suggest that England would be lucky to even make it out the group stage.
There was a severe lack of creativity in midfield, and it seemed like Kane was the only man who had turned up in an England shirt. The team were also utterly all over the place defensively, and something has to change if the Three Lions want to make a mark next summer.
Starting XI: Pickford (5); Trippier (4), Keane (2), Maguire (5), Rose (3); Henderson (4), Rice (5) Mount (4); Sancho (5), Kane (7*), Sterling (6)
Subs: Barkley (6), Rashford (5), Abraham (N/A)
In a game with little to talk about from an England perspective, captain Harry Kane was the only man who showed some heart and quality.
His hold-up play was fantastic, and his passing ability was a joy to behold at times. He played several balls to his strike partners that the world’s best playmakers would have be proud of. A goal inside the first five minutes was a fitting reward for the striker.
Free from the shackles of a torrid Spurs team, Kane showed why many regard him as one of the world’s best players.
Harry Kane is genuinely England’s best passer.
Created the chance for the pen and should’ve had 2 other crazy good assists.
Most complete striker on the planet pic.twitter.com/2asakFOqBF
— Bazza (@WhiteHartDane) October 11, 2019
You know England are absolute shit par the front 3 when Harry Kane is the best passer in the midfield and has to virtually become a CM because everyone else is nothing but average.
— Cenk (@ForzaYids) October 11, 2019
Well then, that was humiliating. Southgate will have to sort this out as soon as possible, with another away fixture coming up against Bulgaria.
This result, of course, is not the end of the world. England should still qualify out of their group, but this will come as a major wake-up call for the Three Lions. There is a lot of improving to do, and something had to be done about their pedestrian midfield and terrible defence.
Players like Tyrone Mings, Fikayo Tomori, Ben Chilwell, Harry Winks and Trent Alexander-Arnold will have to come into contention for Bulgaria, and a hugely improved performance is now badly needed.