Bukayo Saka says England will be confident of beating whoever comes second in Euro 2020’s ‘group of death’ at Wembley after beating the Czech Republic 1-0 to win Group D.
Raheem Sterling’s early header was enough for Gareth Southgate’s side to move above their opponents and finish the group stage without conceding a goal, an achievement they have only managed at two previous major tournaments.
The Three Lions will do battle with world champions France, Germany, holders Portugal or Hungary next Tuesday for a place in the quarter-finals.
Versatile Arsenal teenager Saka, so impressive in his first appearance at a major tournament after coming into the side along with Jack Grealish, Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker, says home advantage with a crowd of 45,000 can help drive England into the last eight.
He told ITV Sport: “It’s really important [to play at Wembley in the last 16]. This is our home. We’ve won a lot of games here – it’s nice to come back here. Whoever we face next, we’ll be confident we can beat them.”
England came in for criticism following a flat performance in a goalless draw with Scotland last Friday but carried a bigger threat four days later.
The livewire Saka’s surging run put the Czech Republic on the back foot in a sweeping move that ended with Sterling nodding home Grealish’s cross and the 19-year-old was delighted to grasp his opportunity.
What a performance!
— England (@England) June 22, 2021
“It was a really good performance from us. We played some really good football at times,” said Saka. “With us already having qualified, we had more freedom to express ourselves. That showed in some of the football we played.
“The manager told me to go out and express myself, to play how I have played for my club all season. Sometimes that means driving at the opponents and I did that and got us up the pitch.
“It was a good cross from Jack for the goal and Raheem was in the right place at the right time again. I was up there but not quite tall enough.
“It is important to be here at Wembley for the round of 16. We have won here a lot. With our fans it is an extra man for us. I can only give my best when I am on the pitch.”
The Czech Republic finished in third place below Croatia – 3-1 winners over Scotland – on goals scored and will face the Netherlands or the winners of Group E.
England progress on the back of keeping clean sheets in every group stage match at a major tournament for only the third time, also doing so at the 1966 World Cup (three matches) and in the second group stage of the 1982 World Cup (two matches).
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