Raheem Sterling scored the only goal of the game again as England beat the Czech Republic 1-0 to top Group D and book a potential last-16 showdown with Portugal, France or Germany.
The Manchester City forward headed home a Jack Grealish cross in an impressive first-half performance from Gareth Southgate’s men. While their level dropped somewhat in a drab second period, England can at least look forward to another game at Wembley in the knockout stages.
Southgate gave Grealish a start in place of the isolating Mason Mount in midfield, while Bukayo Saka replaced Phil Foden – who was not in the squad at all.
There was also the welcome return of Harry Maguire at the back alongside John Stones.
England came so close to taking the lead inside the opening two minutes when Sterling was played in on goal. The City forward lobbed his effort over an advancing Tomas Vaclik in the Czech goal but his strike flicked off the outside of the far post.
However, Southgate’s men were in front with 12 minutes on the clock through that man Sterling.
Grealish was the architect after good work by Harry Kane. The Villa playmaker worked some space on the left and crossed to the far post where a leaping Sterling nodded home.
Kane almost made it 2-0 midway through the half when he was found by Harry Maguire in the Czech area. The England skipper cut back onto his right foot but Vaclik stuck out a right hand to deny him.
Job done! ✅
— England (@England) June 22, 2021
At the other end, Jordan Pickford had to be alert to palm out a fierce 20-yard strike from Tomas Holes.
Tomas Soucek also drilled an effort inches wide on the volley, as the Czech’s continued to show they were a threat to the England goal.
But the Three Lions went into the break with a deserved advantage, with their front four in particular impressing.
Henderson time for England
Southgate made a change at the break, with Jordan Henderson coming on for Declan Rice. The Liverpool skipper is still working his way back to full fitness and was given the chance to get some minutes under his belt ahead of the knockout stages.
The pace of the game dropped in the second period, with Marcus Rashford and Jude Bellingham introduced off the bench for Sterling and Grealish.
A rare strike on goal in a woeful second period saw Czech substitute Tomas Pekhart fire wide, while the impressive Saka was replaced by Jadon Sancho with six minutes remaining.
Henderson thought he’d scored his first-ever England goal late on but it was ruled out for offside.
But with few alarms, England finished top of the group and can look forward to a blockbuster tie in the last 16 next Tuesday.