Bukayo Saka said he was told go out and ‘express himself’ after producing an eye-catching man-of-the-match performance in England’s 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic, their final Group D game at Euro 2020.
The Three Lions had already secured qualification thanks to results 24 hours earlier Gareth Southgate’s men ensured they progressed as group winners after Raheem Sterling’s 12th-minute header proved decisive at Wembley.
Eyebrows were raised prior to kick-off as Jadon Sancho once again missed out in England’s new-look side, with Gareth Southgate making four changes to the team that were held to a goalless draw by Scotland last Friday.
But the sublime displays Saka and Jack Grealish – who provided an exquisite assist for Sterling on his first start at the tournament – soon silenced the questions being asked about Southgate’s team selection.
The Aston Villa captain continued to cause problems right up until his substitution in the 68th minute but it was Arsenal youngster Saka who came away with the ‘Star of the Match’ award after an inspired display which may have given Southgate a slight selection headache ahead of the knockout stage.
‘I think it was a really good performance from us. We played some really good football at times,’ a beaming Saka told ITV Sport shortly after the final whistle
‘Of course with us already qualifying before the game, we had a lot more freedom and time to express ourselves.
‘I think that showed in some of the football we played tonight so I’m happy with the performance from myself and from the team.’
Asked what Southgate has said to him to inspire such an outstanding performance, Saka revealed: ‘He just told me go out there, play my game and express myself like how I played at my club all season.
‘Sometimes that means obviously dropping in and driving at the opponents and I did that and got us up the pitch.
‘It was a good cross from Jack and Raheem was in the right place again to score us the goal.
‘I was up there but not quite tall enough!’
Going through as Group D winners above the Czech Republic means England will play their fourth match in succession in front of home fans at Wembley.
‘It’s important for us to be here at Wembley, of course,’ Saka said.
‘We’ve played here a lot and won here a lot so we have a lot of confidence playing in this stadium.
‘With our fans, it’s an extra man for us so it’s going to be a real boost to stay here at Wembley.’
Asked whether he had done enough to hold onto his place, Saka replied: ‘I hope so, it’s always up to the manager.
‘I can only give my best when I’m on the pitch so we’ll wait and see.’
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