England beat Czech Republic 1-0 to finish Group D on seven points, having scored two goals and conceded none.
The clamour for Jack Grealish to start had grown over the course of the tournament, and his candidacy for a starting spot was given a clear run after Mason Mount had to self-isolate in line with coronavirus protocols. The Aston Villa man performed well but did not stamp his authority on the game.
As such, questions remain over England's best attacking line-up. It is a quandary complicated by Bukayo Saka's excellent performance - he should start the last-16 tie next week, but at the expense of who?
Bellingham set for Dortmund contract extension - report
- Sterling strike seals England win over Czechs and top spot in Group D
- Modric and Perisic show class to break Scottish hearts and send Croatia through
It was the tried and tested 4-2-3-1, but one with considerably more freedom than its previous guises at the tournament, as evidenced by the advanced positioning of Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw.
However, it felt - particularly in the first half - that England had less control over the game than against Croatia or Scotland with the Czech team getting behind England's midfield on numerous occasions.
The Three Lions were a more reserved proposition in the second half as they attempted to take the sting out of the game but lost their attacking impetus. The battle for Southgate and England is to find a better balance between impetus and control.
Reaction from England fans as Southgate's side beat Czech Republic
Big Winner - Bukayo Saka
Jadon Sancho can count himself seriously unlucky to have not started, and was the recipient of quite the cheer when he was introduced in the stead of Saka.
However, the Arsenal man fully justified his start with a performance of effervescence, industry and intelligence. He was given a chance and took it. Mason Mount will be available - but won't have trained - for the last-16 tie on Tuesday. On this showing, Saka should absolutely retain his place regardless. He faded in the second half but so too did England.
Saka earned many plaudits on the nights
Image credit: Getty Images
Big Loser - Jordan Henderson
A harsh take, perhaps, considering that he has played very limited football since February, but it showed. He was brought on at half time for Declan Rice but, bar a few nice touches, was off the pace. It is hard to envisage the Liverpool captain being anywhere up to speed by tournament end. He brings other attributes - like leadership - but the legs are not there at the moment.
Jude Bellingham, despite his youth, represents a far better option than Henderson at this stage.
Pickford - 6 - The Everton goalkeeper is a far more composed operator at international level than in club colours and he made a fine save from Holes just shy of the half hour mark and was generally very solid.
Walker - 7 - A reliable and calming presence down England's right and a perfect foil for Saka. He should be the starting right-back for the rest of the tournament.
Stones - 7 - composed as he has been for much of the tournament.
Maguire - 7 - Maguire is a very good defender, but the biggest asset he brings to this England team is ball progression. It allows England to play 15 yards further forward. This, in turn, changes the whole feel and complexion of England's performance.
Shaw - 6 - Similarly to Walker on the other side of the pitch, the Manchester United full-back had permission to operate far further up the pitch and was solid defensively while offering a constant outlet going forward.
Phillips - 7- Neat and tidy in parts and broad and expansive when required. An excellent option to set the tone from deep.
Rice - 6 - Solid enough but the Czech Republic got in behind the England midfield on a few occasions in the first half. Withdrawn at half-time for Jordan Henderson.
Saka - 8 - An electric presence, who injected an intensity and threat into the match every time he picked the ball up. If England want to control games with sterile possession then players of Saka's inventiveness and guile should be a crucial component. He is ahead of Sancho in the pecking order and should start in the last-16 tie.
Grealish - 7 - Created the goal, so justified his start. A footballer capable of shifting through the gears and changing the pace of the game, much like Saka. However, faded as the game progressed and was substituted for Bellingham
Sterling - 6 - Gareth Southgate relies on Sterling for a reason: he delivers. And he delivered against the Czech Republic. Has he played better? Yes? Was he effective here? Absolutely.
Kane - 5- His most involved performance, but the feeling remains that physically he is struggling.
Henderson - 5 - Does not look fit.
Rashford - 5 - An excellent footballer who offered a multi-faceted threat but could do with a full game to show his broad scope of talent.
Bellingham - 6 - Neat, tidy and composed beyond his years.
Mings - Solid but unlikely to return to the team following Maguire's strong return.
England did what they had to without laying down a marker.
The Three Lions remain a functional team with room for improvement, which, on balance, bodes well. They have room to grow into the tournament. However, they must find the balance between looking a threat going forward and exerting control over the game. They currently seem unable to do both things simultaneously.
The performance of Saka was a huge bonus though, and provides Southgate with another valuable option.
MORE defenders Gareth? More? That’s insane! – The Warm-Up
Pragmatism wins tournaments, England are pragmatic - The Warm-Up