Dazzling Jadon Sancho lights up Wembley in England’s thrashing of Czech Republic as young winger justifies Gareth Southgate’s faith
- Jadon Sancho was hugely impressive as England thrashed Czech Republic 5-0
- Sancho provided the assist for Raheem Sterling’s opener in the 24th minute
- The 18-year-old winger justified the faith that Gareth Southgate placed in him
The speed with which England have evolved under Gareth Southgate is impressive, as is the courage their manager has displayed in promoting the talented young players rapidly emerging from the junior ranks.
When he said he would be quite happy to select either Jadon Sancho or Callum Hudson-Odoi for this European Championship qualifier, he did so without a hint of trepidation. Never mind that Hudson-Odoi has not started a Premier League game for Chelsea.
On Friday night, as predicted by this newspaper when news first emerged that Marcus Rashford was carrying an injury, he went with the more experienced of the two 18-year-olds: the precociously-gifted young forward dazzling the German Bundesliga with his contributions for Borussia Dortmund.
Jadon Sancho was hugely impressive as England thrashed Czech Republic 5-0 at Wembley
Sancho showed his flair and also provided the assist for Raheem Sterling’s opener
Sancho is a sensation; a player matched only by Lionel Messi for the number of assists in the big five leagues in Europe this season, and someone at least one former coach has likened to Neymar.
Such praise so early in a career can, of course, be dangerous. For some players it becomes a burden. But Sancho seems to possess the confidence that enables him to seize these opportunities. So it proved again here.
If truth be told, he did not start terribly well, slightly over-complicating matters and too often losing possession. But when Raheem Sterling broke the deadlock 24 minutes into this contest, it was Sancho who provided the final ball.
In fairness to Harry Kane, he delivered the incisive pass that invited his young colleague to simply square the ball for Sterling at the far post. But it was a clever run from Sancho that caught out the Czech defence and he did well to find Sterling given the pace with which he was moving.
For Southgate it must have been particularly pleasurable. Not least because Sterling’s finish was the conclusion to a 25-pass sequence that saw 10 England players touch the ball in the build-up.
But for Sancho it also provided a timely boost, the teenager nearly carving another opportunity for Sterling to strike minutes later.
The hugely talented 18-year-old justified the faith Gareth Southgate placed in him
On the flanks either side of Kane, Sterling and Sancho were proving increasingly effective, the Czechs finding it more and more difficult to deal with their pace and movement.
It was as a consequence of Sterling’s direct running that Kane was able to double England’s advantage from the penalty spot; further evidence of the verve and ambition England display under the guidance of their manager.
These are interesting times for England, and not just because a World Cup semi-final has been followed by progression to the Nations League finals in Portugal this summer and the prospect of a European Championship played mostly on home soil next year.
What makes it so exciting for Southgate is the rate at which more players are coming off the St George’s Park production line, making it extremely hard to say who might be in his final 23 should England qualify for the next major tournament. There is now Declan Rice too, of course. This week Southgate referenced Phil Foden and Morgan Gibbs-White as two more he has his eye on.
The challenge is timing — bringing them through when they are absolutely ready — and if there is one slight concern, it is that Dan Ashworth has left to take on a fresh challenge at Brighton.
Sancho’s confidence was impressive as he caused numerous problems for Czech Republic
The former technical director of the FA did not always get the credit he deserved. But he was the man who turned the national football centre into the success it has now become.
He was the man who oversaw the many England teams while pushing for more innovation in coaching and areas like sports science.
While Les Reed has returned to the FA as Ashworth’s replacement, there are already mutterings that Ashworth’s vision and energy will be missed.
Fortunately for England, the foundations are now in place and Southgate and his assistant, Steve Holland, have a level of knowledge and understanding that comes from having worked with the junior teams prior to being promoted to the senior side.
Sancho over-complicated matters early on but quickly managed to grow into the game
It was that knowledge, of course, that enabled Southgate to make some of the bigger decisions that marked out the early part of his tenure. Not least when it came to ending the international careers of senior figures such as Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart.
They were big calls but the right calls, leading to the emergence of an England side with serious potential. Players of the stature of Kane, Sterling and Dele Alli, of course, but also players of the ability of Sancho.
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