Can England Actually Beat France, Germany Or Portugal In The Round Of 16?

England topped Group D by beating the Czech Republic, but its last-16 opponent is going to be much more difficult.

England has finished top of Euro 2020 Group D with a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic on Tuesday night at Wembley. That result means that the Three Lions will host the Group F runner-up next Tuesday in London. That’ll almost certainly be one of France, Germany or Portugal.

If France beats Portugal and Germany beats Hungary tomorrow, it’s Germany. Can England prevail?

Topping the group leaves little room for complaint, but England managed only two goals in three games at Wembley. The nation wanted a bit more verve and daring after watching Reece James and John Stones pass the ball back and forth ad infinitum against Scotland, and Tuesday’s first half was a display of progress.

Bukayo Saka was England’s most enjoyable player to watch, showing a fearlessness on the ball that resulted in a match-leading five successful dribbles (no one else had more than one).

It was one of those forward thrusts from Arsenal’s 19-year-old phenom that proved the impetus for England’s lone goal in the 12th minute. Saka carried it forward from deep, released the ball and eventually regained possession in the area.

He did well to work some space for a cross, which eventually allowed Jack Grealish, who was also sharp throughout, space on the opposite flank to loop a cross over the goalkeeper for Raheem Sterling to nod home.  

England’s opening period of domination was impressive. Kane looked more involved and willing than he has all tournament. Declan Rice actually passed the ball through defensive lines, and Harry Maguire’s return improved the backline’s rhythm and drive.

But the Czech Republic was able to gain something of a foothold from there, although Tomáš Holeš’ rasping 28th-minute shot represented their only one on target. Despite the defeat, the Czech Republic is also through to the Round of 16 as one of the best third-place finishers. They might get the Netherlands, but there’s also still a chance that they could get Sweden. 

In the end, there are a lot of clichés you can throw at England’s performance — professional, game management, job done, on to the next one — but there’s still a sense that despite the Czech Republic’s willingness to engage England further up the field, the Three Lions still haven’t done nearly enough to be considered favorites against any of France, Germany or Portugal. 

The whole is still less than the sum of its parts, and either that’ll be confirmed on June 29 or Southgate will prove that his side is just growing into this tournament.  

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