A pretty mediocre performance to open their Euro 2020, against the Czech Republic, requiring a tap in, deflection, own goal and penalty saw the hype ramped up, especially for one player.
The Czechs aren’t what they were. Back when they should have beaten Germany to with the Euros in ’96, back even when they were just lobbing the ball up to Jan Koller for him to nod down to Baros. They haven’t even got that now.
What they did have was England playing into their hands. Slow ball and running into the packed defence.
All hyped up by the scoreline and a not really a hat-trick from Sterling. Man of the match Sterling. Sterling who was instrumental in most of the rubbish that went on. But because the Mail said something about him, journos have to fall over themselves to talk him up and not be honest. So we have a massive deflection talked about as clinical finishing.
England were perfectly highlighted by Kyle Walker early in the first half. His usual trick. Bomb forward with the ball, plenty of space to attack but no, he does that flick the ball inside, through his legs, into a packed defence and all forward momentum is stopped.
Get behind the defence? Nah, we’ll just fanny about in front of it. With far too many players facing their own goal and to ready to pass the ball backwards.
Twenty four minutes in was the first time they got behind the Czech defence. It took a glorious ball from Harry Kane, through the channel to Sancho his cross was then lunged at by Sterling to open the scoring. He had to lunge because he was, yet again, going inside when he should have stayed out. But apparently it was a great goal… from Sterling.
But it required Harry to drop deep and create. You’re number one striker has to make the goals because there’s nothing creative coming from the centre of the park and well, you wouldn’t need to take your shoes and socks off to count the number of times Sterling passes to Kane, with Kane in a scoring position.
When England were playing one touch, first time pass, stuff, they could have run through the Czechs with such ease. When they fannied about the visiting ‘keeper had nothing to do. The talk that Southgate’s shift in formation has improved Sterling, going from one in a “striking pair” to a winger… well, as he keeps coming inside, there isn’t much wing play. Come inside, run into defenders, lose the ball, it’s like having Wilshere back.
Even worse was what was happening on the opposite wing, where we’ve been told Sterling has become a mentor to Sancho and it shows. As the kid kept coming inside and mimicking his team-mate. I rad someone saying Sancho was just behind Sterling as man of the match. No. There wasn’t many, if any real candidates but this was the worst of his four England appearances, so far.
He repeatedly had acres of space in front of him, with defenders he could easily beat with his pace and ability but chose the wrong option so many times. Hudson-Odoi pretty much did the same when he came on later, though he at least made the Czech keeper do something and actually played Kane in once. Someone needs to stop them copying Sterling, keep them wide,running past defenders and getting to the byline, stop ’em running into defenders. You don’t have to run towards someone and into them to beat them.
Some think Sterling was lucky to get the penalty just into added time. He was taken out by both defenders, who had no intention of going for the ball, which the keeper probably would have got to before the England player. The keeper did get a hand to Harry’s spot-kick, it was just hit too hard for that hand to prevent the goal.
The second half started like every second half starts under Southgate. With the opposition on top and England’s goal under threat. From 2-0 up and comfortable the hosts could quite easily have been 2-3 down as the Czechs created good chances. They started to attack Walker and found joy with his inept attempt at defending.
What does Southgate do to them at the break?
A few times after the break they got behind the defence, even got to the byline but again it was Harry creating and others on the end of it.
Sterling’s second was a decent finish that came from a huge bit of luck. Walker galloping forward, did his other routine of kicking the ball straight at a defender, it rebounded off another defender and fell to Sterling, all he really had to do was turn and swing his foot from about 9 yards out. I suppose it is a good finish when you think of past efforts from him. At least he wasn’t so confused about which foot to use that he didn’t fall over.
The third took a massive deflection, so much so that those claiming him a hat-trick hero would be chalking it down as an OG if anyone else had “scored” it.
The Czechs doubled their scoring with another OG later on, they’d tried on a number of occasions to get in the score-sheet at the wrong end. It just gave the scoreline that extra bit of flattery.
The thing is with a number of the players Southgate has at his disposal the team should be doing the Czech Republic by five without all this help. He has the players to make a really exciting team, without the talking up rubbish. That’s what makes it so frustrating. But take out Sterling’s goals and does he really fit with the team, is he really a team player? Dele is shunted about and his link up play with Kane is blocked off by Sterling. Henderson offers you nothing. Walker is clueless in defence and attack. Pickford is now an accident waiting to happen and whoever it was from the Czechs was right Maguire is a weak link…