England are becoming accustomed to reality checks, but they don’t seem to be learning from them.
Friday’s 2-1 away defeat against the Czech Republic, after FC Dallas striker Zdenek Ondrasek netted an 85th-minute winner for the home side, left England still needing at least one more victory in Group A to be certain of qualification for Euro 2020.
“We didn’t use the ball well enough,” Southgate said. “And in terms of a wake-up call, I think we’ve had a lot of plaudits, but we’ve always maintained that there’s a lot of work to be done to be a really top team. I think tonight was clear evidence of that. We have to respond in the right way.”
In many ways, it was the same story when England lost 2-1 to Croatia in the World Cup semifinal in Moscow in 2018 and again this summer, when the Netherlands secured a 3-1 win in the Nations League semifinal in Guimaraes to deny England a place in the inaugural final of UEFA’s new tournament. On each occasion, and against the Czechs, England’s inability to control the game from midfield proved their downfall.cheap nfl nike jerseys china
But in Prague, where England have never beaten the Czechs since their first meeting against the old Czechoslovakia in 1934, there were even more alarm bells ringing.
Both full-backs — Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier — were poor defensively and in possession, prompting questions over their selection for this game ahead of the more in-form Ben Chilwell and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Kyle Walker, the treble-winning right-back at Manchester City last season, failed to even make the squad. And in the heart of England’s defence, Everton’s Michael Keane simply looked well short of international class against Harry Maguire, the world’s most expensive defender.
England’s strengths — their attacking options — were largely nullified by the Czechs because the home side were able to control a midfield that was far too cautious and limited in the shape of Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale
Ranked 44th in the FIFA World Ranking, the Czech Republic are a competent team, but they are not the force of old, when they produced top-class players such as Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborsky and Patrik Berger. England have traditionally made easy work of teams ranked some distance below them, only failing when they come up against the established powers, but they were outsmarted and outplayed in every department by Jaroslav Silhavy’s side, who lost 5-0 at Wembley earlier this year.
It is the midfield area that is the biggest concern, however. Defensively, Southgate has options such as Joe Gomez, John Stones and perhaps even Axel Tuanzebe, but in midfield, the cupboard is bare.
Liverpool captain Henderson has his qualities. He is a motivator and offers endless energy, but at this level, his passing range is painfully short of what is required. Those shortcomings would not be such a problem if he were deployed alongside a midfielder with the ability to dictate the tempo with his passing and ability to carry the ball forward, but his partner against the Czechs was Rice, who pretty much does the same job as Henderson.