Written by Harvey Camp (@harveycampjourn)
Manchester City man Raheem Sterling scored a hat trick as England put on a commanding display at Wembley to see off Czech Republic 5-0, in what was a positive start to the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign for the Three Lions.
The home side broke the deadlock on the 24th minute mark, as Harry Kane’s decisive through ball split the back-line and found Jadon Sancho, who in turn squared for Sterling to stretch out and tap in to an empty net to give Gareth Southgate’s men a well deserved lead.
The away side remained resilient despite being on the back foot, but were carved open again on the stroke of half-time as Sterling was brought down in the box by a combination of Pavel Kaderabek and Tomas Kalas’ legs, gifting Harry Kane the chance to convert from the penalty spot, which he did with ferocity.
The Three Lions approached the second half with apparent hunger, eager to score more goals and it wasn’t long before the floodgates opened once again.
The 62nd minute mark saw Kyle Walker raid forward down the Czechs’ left-hand side before sending a low ball towards his City counterpart Sterling in the middle. Despite a deflection, the winger managed to twist and turn his marker before curling an effort beyond the reach of Jiri Pavlenka and into the far corner of the net.
However, the young City forward wasn’t quite done there, as the wide-man latched on to Ross Barkley’s precise lay off before placing the ball once again out of the reach of Pavlenka into the right hand corner of the net. The strike needed a deflection to beat the Czech keeper, but that rounded off Sterling’s first hat-trick in an England shirt.
The home side rounded off the 90 minutes by adding a fifth, as debutant Callum Hudson-Odoi drove at the Czech Republic back line before unleashing a fine strike that was well saved by Pavlenka, but also bundled in off Tomas Kalas in the process; ending a fine evening for England and one to forget for the away side.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Sterling’s able to finally duplicate his form
One of Sterling’s main criticisms during his tenure at Manchester City is his ability to do the job at club level, but not at international level. The young winger had a fine 2017/18 campaign for the reigning Premier League champions, but was rendered ineffective during England’s 2018 World Cup outing. This raised questions about his international status and whether he should actually be one of the first names on Gareth Southgate’s team sheet heading into further competitions.
However, recent performances in a Three Lions shirt has shown that the 24-year-old has come a long way since the World Cup campaign, scoring goals not only for club but for country as well. This is such a positive for Southgate and England heading into the Euro 2020 campaign next year.
Sancho is ready for the international stage
Southgate was not so much criticised for including Sancho in his Euro 2020 qualifying squad, but questions were raised whether the step up may be too quick for the former City youngster, who’s spent this season in fine form for his current club Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
However, this fixture in particular showed that the 18-year-old is not out of his depth in any shape or form, which England fans should be jubilant about. He frightened Czech fullback Filip Novak for 90 minutes and didn’t look like he had spent a single second out of the international limelight, adding an assist to his name too. With Hudson-Odoi on the fringes as well, Southgate will be ecstatic about the wide options he has heading into these qualifiers.
Rice looked as tidy on debut
A lot of the talk heading into this game was whether Declan Rice would feature at some stage, following the switch of allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England. However, all that aside, the young West Ham midfielder replaced Dele Alli on 63 minutes and looked just as comfortable in a Three Lions shirt as we all see him in the Premier League; very calm, very assured and eager to take risks moving forward too.
Southgate gaining such a raw talent like Rice is a massive boost for the England national team. I can easily see him filling the boots of Jordan Henderson in that holding role once he gets more international experience under his belt, and he’s sure to get more of that judging on his outing on Friday night.
It’s rare to see someone with little experience look so composed and look so confident within themselves. You’d judge him as a player that’s had a few years international experience already in the bag. This alone is such a positive for Southgate, and no doubt the top clubs in world football will be sniffing around him come summer.
Have England turned a corner?
Young talent coming through the ranks, players performing as well for country as they do at club level, a World Cup semi final in the bag; this side might just be the one to push on to new heights. Now we know that it’s in an England fan’s nature to get carried away…we’ve done it every competition since 1966!
However, what is apparent with this current squad is that there’s a togetherness, there’s a will to win and there’s a hunger that we’ve been missing for some considerable amount of years now.
You look at the facts, there’s young talent coming through that could easily play a starring role in the national side for the next ten years; you look at the likes of Rice, Sancho, Hudson-Odoi and even Phil Foden, who’s likely to be added to the mix for next year’s Euros assuming we qualify. It’s a great foundation to build on.
With a World Cup semi-final ticked off for these young Lions too there’s only one way these boys can go, and the Euros will be a real representation of what this side is capable of.