England must wait to confirm their place in Euro 2020 after the Czech Republic deservedly ended their 43-game unbeaten run in qualifiers stretching back 10 years.
No-one can complain about his decision to give Chelsea’s in-form Mason Mount his debut ahead of team-mate Ross Barkley but the youngster never flourished in an advanced midfield position in the first half.
Mount was barely able to influence the game and with Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice exposed and pedestrian, England found themselves often overrun by the sprightly Czechs.
England’s potent attacking trio of Kane, Sterling and Jadon Sancho were starved of service, leaving them under-performing in every area of the pitch.
The Czech Republic, backed by a noisy crowd in Prague, gathered momentum and confidence and it was no surprise when Ondrasek finally broke Pickford’s resistance late on.
This was simply not good enough from England and the concerns that surfaced about their true quality when they won 5-3 in chaotic style against Kosovo in Southampton will only increase after this.
Defensive woes continue
Any hope the defensive uncertainty that characterised England’s victory against Kosovo had been successfully addressed was banished inside the first 10 minutes in Prague.
Pickford saved brilliantly from Coufal as the Czech Republic responded to England’s early salvo but there was the trademark confusion at the resulting corner which ended with Brabec stabbing home from close range.
England lived dangerously throughout and it was not a shock when they finally conceded late on.
Everton’s Michael Keane struggles desperately at this level while full-backs Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier hardly covered themselves in glory either.
Harry Maguire looks the one staple in defence but he does not exude confidence either.
In other words, quality sides will relish facing this England defence and Southgate is running out of time to apply the fix.
Southgate = Hodgson – the stats
- Czech Republic had 17 shots in this match, the most England have faced in a qualifying match since March 2013, when Montenegro had 19 in a World Cup qualifier.
- This was England’s first defeat in a European Championship qualifier since losing 3-2 at Wembley against Croatia in November 2007.
- Harry Kane has scored 20 goals in 21 matches for England when starting as captain – the only player with more is Vivian Woodward (23 goals between 1908 and 1911).
- Excluding shootouts, no player has scored more penalties for England than Harry Kane (9, level with Frank Lampard).
- Zdenek Ondrasek scored on his international debut for Czech Republic, scoring with his first shot in international football.
- Gareth Southgate (W21 D9 L8) has lost as many games as England manager in 38 matches as Roy Hodgson lost in 56 matches as manager (W33 D15 L8).