Jack Grealish has no doubts about his ability to shine on the international stage after his impressive performance against the Czech Republic helped England reach the last 16 as winners of Group D.
Gareth Southgate has faced calls to make Grealish a prominent part of his team and the winger took his chance after being handed his first start of Euro 2020 on Tuesday night, running at the Czechs and creating Raheem Sterling’s early winner with a fine cross.
It was a nerveless performance from the Aston Villa playmaker, who has had to manage his workload in training after recovering from a shin injury, and he is feeling increasingly comfortable in an England shirt.
“There is nothing to say I can’t perform at this level,” Grealish said. “You all know how much confidence I have in myself to be able to perform and I felt I did that with my assist. I felt I could have still created a few more chances but we got the win and that was the main thing.
“I felt fine out there fitness-wise. It was a good team performance from the boys against a team that hadn’t lost in their two games in the tournament. I don’t think it’s pressure at all, I love playing football and that is what I am paid and what I was born to do.
“I just love playing football every day of my life and when I go out there, there is no pressure on me whatsoever. I just enjoy myself like I always do. I felt in the second half I still could have got on the ball a little bit more and tried to dictate the game a bit more from an England point of view.”
Grealish, who will hope to start again when England face the runners up of Group F in the last 16 next Tuesday, made sure that he was not too eager to prove himself after coming into the starting 11. The 25-year-old was an unused substitute during England’s win over Croatia and he was restricted to a cameo off the bench during the 0-0 draw with Scotland.
“I’ve had games before in the past where you want to try to do too much,” he said. “You want to prove to people that much that you end up having a stinker. I’ve had that many times before. I felt like I did well. I set up a goal, I created a few chances.
“I felt like as a team we could have kept possession a bit more and I felt like I could have helped that by maybe dropping deeper or getting on the ball a bit more. But I was happy with my performance.”
Southgate’s plans for taking on the Czechs were disrupted after Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell were were forced to isolate up to and including next Monday after being deemed close contacts of Scotland’s Billy Gilmour, who has tested positive for Covid-19. Mount and Chilwell are doubts to play in the last 16 after speaking to Gilmour in the Wembley tunnel last Friday.
The pair must quarantine despite returning negative tests and the situation has raised eyebrows in the England dressing room. No Scotland players were deemed to be close contacts of Grealish.
“From my point of view, I think it is crazy how we haven’t got one positive case in our team and we’ve got two players isolating and Scotland have got one positive case and have got one person isolating,” Grealish said. “That baffles me a little bit. But I can’t really say too much on it. It is what it is. With what’s going on in the world over the past 18 months, we all have to stick to these rules.”