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Vibrant Saka and Grealish breathe life back into Euros campaign

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orget permutations and easier sides of the draw, England took matters into their own hands and ensured they are masters of their own fate. Which is precisely what they needed to do after their dismal display against Scotland.

A win against Czech Republic has set them on course for a daunting round-of-16 tie against France, Germany or Portugal. But it will be at Wembley next Tuesday and, crucially, on the back of the type of uplifting performance they badly needed.

It was only 1-0 – but there was enough in this to point to better times ahead.

Gareth Southgate unleashed the thrilling attacking talents of Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka. As a result, the previously listless Harry Kane looked far more potent – even if he did not open his account at these Euros.

Rather it was Raheem Sterling who scored the winner and his second goal of the tournament as he flourished in a central role as England’s wide men stretched the Czechs.

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This was not perfect – but it was a game full of attacking intent. There was no doubting England came out to win – and even as the game drew to a close, they went in search of a second, rather than protect what they had.

In the end, Southgate placed greater importance on momentum, rather than try plot the perfect route to the final. What is more important – an easier passage or the morale lift that comes with a positive performance and a win?

That Southgate determined it was the former should be a source of encouragement for England supporters who chanted “It’s Coming Home” at the final whistle. This is a home tournament that is yet to catch fire after the Three Lions’ balloon was burst somewhat by Scotland’s tartan army. Could Southgate really risk crawling into the knockout stages?

That was always going to be the question once results on Monday confirmed England’s qualification. Just how desperate would they be to win this game?

The answer was emphatic with another flying start as Sterling struck the post when racing onto Luke Shaw’s through ball. But unlike the games against Croatia and Scotland, England managed to maintain a tempo that the Czechs struggled to contain.


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