The Three Lions might not have looked all that impressive throughout the group stages, but they progressed to the second round with their third consecutive clean sheet under the Wembley arch.
Gareth Southgate’s men were under serious pressure coming into the Czech Republic clash with the 0-0 draw with Scotland having undercut many of the positives from the Croatia victory.
However, there was a real injection of energy and positivity during the opening stages of the Czech Republic game with Jack Grealish finally given his opportunity from the start.
The Aston Villa man played a wonderful floated cross to the back post that Raheem Sterling headed home for his second goal of the tournament and what proved to be the winning touch.
Nevertheless, we’d be remiss to say that the goal was all down to Grealish and Sterling because as invaluable as their contributions were, there’s no denying that Bukayo Saka played a vital role.
There were a real eyebrows raised when Southgate plumped for the Arsenal youngster over the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, but it proved to be an inspired decision.
It speaks volumes that nobody was accusing Southgate of having made the wrong call by the time Saka was substituted in the 84th minute because he was nothing short of phenomenal.
In fact, per Opta, Saka’s five completed take-ons were the joint-most from an England teenager at a major tournament since records began alongside Sterling (2014) and Michael Owen (1998).
Saka’s superb individual highlights
And that very dynamism and direct style of play was exactly what earned Saka the official Man of the Match award, which is remarkable for a 19-year-old in his start at an international competition.
However, don’t just take UEFA’s verdict and the statistics for granted because the brilliance of Saka’s performance can also be seen in his individual highlights.
So, courtesy of Twitter user @FutbolKhan, be sure to do yourself a favour and check those very highlights out in all their glory down below:
What a performance. Truly stunning.
GIVEMESPORT’s Kobe Tong says
Call me dramatic, but I think you’ve got to start Saka against Germany, France, Portugal or Hungary when they play them on Tuesday night.
While that might sound staggeringly reactionary, let’s zoom out for a second and appreciate that Saka finally added the sort of electricity and invention that England fans have been crying out for.
The Arsenal youngster well and truly took the game by the scruff of the neck, throwing off the shackles and having a really good go of things despite all the static play around him.
Is Saka better than Rashford, Sancho and Phil Foden? No chance, but that’s not what we’re debating here, we’re debating who is going to make the biggest impact for England at Euro 2020.
On current evidence, you could seriously be forgiven for thinking that Saka wins that particular battle and if that’s the case, then why wouldn’t you back him to produce something special next week?
Watch saka’s performance below