Gary Neville believes England can’t outplay Euro 2020 heavyweights France, Portugal and Germany – and that they must stay cautious and defensive in their style if they are to go deeper into the tournament.
Gareth Southgate’s side topped Group D after beating Czech Republic 1-0 at Wembley on Tuesday night thanks to a Raheem Sterling header.
It means they will play the runners-up in Group F in the last 16, likely to be one of big boys France, Germany or Portugal.
Southgate has come under criticism for his tactics, which have seen England keep three clean sheets in the group games but only score twice, with the Three Lions boss picking two holding midfielders in Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips alongside a back four.
Former full-back Neville, however, insists it is the right way to go about the tournament.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again – I don't think England are going to win this tournament by outplaying France, Germany, Portugal, Spain,” he said. “I don't think we've got the players to do that.
"We've got good players, but I think we're going to win it in the way we're playing now – keeping clean sheets and making sure the backline is protected by those two lads [Rice and Phillips] in midfield, and then creating those individual moments of brilliance. We do have those players in the team that can achieve that for us."
Sterling’s 12-minute goal against the Czechs threatened to open the floodgates at Wembley, but despite a vibrant attacking display in the first half, with Jack Grealish and Bakayo Saka starting behind Harry Kane, the second period tailed away and while England rarely looked like conceding, there was fewer chances at the other end.
Neville, who was part of the England side that reached the semi-finals of Euro 96, remains confident and happy with the way Southgate has steered the Three Lions into the knockout stages though.
He added: "If this was Germany or this was another country, we'd be thinking, 'They look calm, they look in control'.
"We don't think that when we're England – we always want more. We want the brilliance, we want the 3-0 win. But I feel really confident about this group. I actually trust the manager. I said it before the tournament, that I do think he knows what he is doing with this group.
"He knows their capabilities and he knows how they can win games. It’s a massive game, next week. A giant of a game, but they have a week to prepare for that. I'm looking forward to it."
Neville also claimed that Southgate could switch to a five-man defence if England are paired against France or Germany in the last 16.
England will be back in action on Tuesday 29 June at Wembley for a 5pm kick-off. They will learn their opponents on Wednesday night, with France taking on Portugal and Germany playing Hungary (both 8pm). All four teams could still finish as runners up in Group F.