The match between Czech Republic and England had the latter coming out with a 2-1 defeat. This brought in disturbing moments and nights to Southgate.
In the recent past, the cracks that have been exposed when under pressure reappeared. As if that was not enough, the cracks widened as the Czech’s rediscovered the verve of their better days.
England’s display is starting to produce a pattern that places their hopes of success in what could be termed a home tournament next summer into sharp relief.
England may have made four wins from four in qualifying in the game against Kosovo. But the unpleasant aftertaste was of a defensive shamble that suggested there would be a fair game for any decent attack in international football.
And so, it proved that in Prague, where even Harry Kane’s fifth-penalty, taking him to equal 12th in England’s all-time list of goal scorers with 27, could not save them from themselves.
Credit to Czech Republic
This wasn’t the side that easily fell to 5-0 defeat at Wembley in March. They identified their chance and took it. The only surprise was, it took so long for them to strike the decisive blow.
As for England, this was the forgettable and desperately mediocre performance that simply must be addressed.
The only player to emerge with credit was Everton’s goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford. He kept the Czechs at bay before substitute Zdenek Ondrasek’s late strike settled matters.
England has had their bouquets. It is now time for the brickbats.
Everton’s Michael Keane is a competent club defender. However, he looks nervous and often out of his depth at international level.
Harry Maguire is likely to stay as Southgate’s first choice. But he is another who has been unimpressive stretching back to the Uefa Nations League.
Southgate may now be tempted to give Joe Gomez his chance, despite a lack of game time at Anfield, while Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings and Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori are out here with this squad.
Southgate himself cannot escape criticism here. In his defense, he did not attempt to do so because while his decision to give Chelsea’s Mason Mount his full debut was a perfectly understandable one, the shape and balance of England’s team were all wrong especially in the first half.
England has a front three that ranks among the finest in European football in Kane, Raheem Sterling, and Jadon Sancho but a fat lot of good it will do them if their defense performs like this against the top-class opposition they can expect to meet next summer.