England face a crunch Euro 2020 final group game against Czech Republic tonight, and only a win will see them qualify as group winners.
A win over Croatia was followed up with a draw against Scotland, meaning that they have four points from two games just like the Czech’s. But with the visitors on Tuesday night having a better goal difference following their 2-0 win over the Scots, a draw would see them win the group ahead of England.
Gareth Southgate will be without Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell for the game after they were forced to self-isolate following close contact with Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for COVID-19 after the England-Scotland game on Friday night.
So who should start the game that England must win to get their tournament really kick-started? This would be my team:
Jordan Pickford (GK)
England’s best available goalkeeper so he should start. Yet to really be tested during the tournament but has kept two clean sheets and his passing and claiming of crosses has been good, so no need to change anything there.
Kyle Walker (RB)
Walker was hot and cold against Croatia but without him against Scotland, England looked stale. His pace is a powerful tool in both directions while his ability on the ball is more than adequate to help build from the back, he’s England best option in the position and should start.
John Stones (CB)
The Manchester City centre-back came closest to breaking the deadlock against Scotland when he headed against the post. That aerial ability has been on show throughout the tournament but also his one-on-one defensive qualities and passing have continued to shine through and he should keep his place.
Harry Maguire (CB)
Manchester United’s captain has yet to kick a ball at this tournament so far and England haven’t conceded a goal yet, but he should come into the side for this one. Defensively he is excellent aerially and as a leader, while also being far better on the ball than Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady. Must start.
Luke Shaw (LB)
Shaw was called into the side for the Scotland game but struggled to make an impact as he wasn’t really allowed to push on too much. That must change in this game if England are to have success and he is the best attacking left-back in the squad. With Chilwell out due to COVID protocols, he must start.
Declan Rice (CM)
Rice is a solid defensive outlet when it comes his midfield role but progressing the ball against a low block defence is not his strongest attribute. With that said, England can’t afford to lose the game and he is comfortably the best defensive midfielder in the squad. He should be in there for added protection but his role should be simple – win the ball back and give it to the more talented players.
Jude Bellingham (CM)
The last thing England need to do in this game is play with two holding midfielders, so it’s the perfect chance for young Bellingham to make his mark on the tournament. More than comfortable in every role as a central midfielder, the 18-year-old would offer terrific balance and some added attacking quality in the final third where needed.
Jadon Sancho (RW)
He’s yet to get his boots dirty in this tournament but Sancho is more than deserving of some action in this tournament now. England have really struggled creatively so far and only Harry Kane had more goal involvements during the last campaign. Sancho has pace, skill, great combination play with passing and has a killer pass and eye for goal so would be the perfect man to bring in to a struggling side.
Jack Grealish (CAM)
It was a surprise that he didn’t start against Croatia and during the 27 minutes he got against Scotland he wasn’t able to do much, but Grealish deserves the nod here. He has the flair and playing style perfectly suited to international football and has shown time and again in an England shirt that he can perform. With Mount unavailable, he’s the obvious choice to step in to the number ten position.
Marcus Rashford (LW)
Raheem Sterling remains the only man to score for England so far in this tournament but his performances have been far from excellent. Marcus Rashford was second in the entire England squad for goal contributions last season (tied with Sancho) and has come on in both games but struggled to get into them. A start here would give him that chance, with his eye for goal and direct style precisely what England have been lacking.
Harry Kane (ST)
As if it was ever in doubt, Southgate has already confirmed that his captain and star striker will start this game. The Tottenham man is yet to even have a shot on target in the tournament but he’s always been a man for the big occasion and there is no bigger stage than now, so expect him to finally make his arrival with a goal in this one.