Gareth Southgate to unleash England stars on Czech Republic with last 16 spot already safe

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So far Gareth Southgate has had to balance the roles of being England manager and his players’ biggest cheerleader. Tonight, though, those roles can unite to deliver the 90 minutes the nations needs if we are to believe that this year there is genuinely a realistic chance football could come home.

Of course, the cry for a swashbuckling victory to stir the heart and get the blood pumping was bound to be loudest when Scotland were the visitors on Friday

It all ended in something of a disappointing stalemate of a draw.

That said, the single point was enough to put England in the box seat for qualification into the knockout stages before tonight’s game – Southgate’s first challenge before he joins the rest of the country in entertaining grander dreams.

Just two third-placed teams ending on three points in other groups were always going to be enough to put England somewhere in the draw before they had even kicked a ball against the Czech Republic.

So now it means proud patriot Southgate has no excuses not to throw caution to the wind to make the procession something more likely to capture the home fans’ imagination.

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