‘Have fun, play free’ as Bukayo Saka shines for England at Wembley

England have ground their way into the last 16 of the European Championship with only two goals in their opening three matches, but Bukayo Saka said his only instructions were to have fun on his tournament debut.

England's Raheem Sterling celebrates after scoring his side's winning goal. (AP Photo/Laurence Griffiths, Pool)
England's Raheem Sterling celebrates after scoring his side's winning goal. (AP Photo/Laurence Griffiths, Pool)

The Arsenal teenager only found out yesterday morning he was in the team, but there were no nerves from Saka, man of the match for his performance in a 1-0 win over Czech Republic which saw England top the group and set up a last-16 tie at Wembley on Tuesday. They will play the team that finishes second in Group F tonight, and head into it confident, according to Saka.

“The instructions were just to play, have fun, express yourself, we’d already qualified and that’s what I tried to do,” said the London-born 19-year-old. “(Manager Gareth Southgate) just told me to play how I do at my club, play confident, play free.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

England, whose goal came from Raheem Sterling after 13 minutes, are yet to concede in the tournament, and Saka says that is filling the team with belief.

England's Raheem Sterling celebrates at Wembley. (Justin Tallis, Pool photo via AP)

“That performance has given me confidence and most importantly given the team confidence,” he said.

“That’s our third clean sheet.

“I just try to stick to what I’ve done all season.”