Curtis Jones was in dominant form in an interesting midfield role on Sunday, as England booked their place in the U21 Euro quarter-finals.
England became the first country to advance to the knockout stages of this summer’s tournament after a 2-0 victory over Israel.
With the Czech Republic – including Liverpool goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros – sealing a 2-1 win over Germany elsewhere in Group C, the Young Lions are already guaranteed to progress.
Jones made his second start in as many games in a deeper midfield role, with the 22-year-old excelling in a mature, dominant display.
He had 136 touches of the ball – comfortably more than any other player, per Sofascore – and completed 120 of his 124 attempted passes for a rate of 97 percent.
No England player made more tackles (three), with Jones showing the discipline and flexibility to operate in a different position to that which he holds at his club.
Curtis Jones far and away with the most touches for England U21 in their 2-0 win over Israel at 136!
Heavy responsibility in build up Jones played a whopping 120 passes with a 96.8% success rate.
Some riskier than others: pic.twitter.com/NXWtIbBeUB
— Lewis Bower (@LewisBower2021) June 25, 2023
There were flexes of his creativity, still, including a sumptuous ball to split the defence as Noni Madueke ran onto it for a cross inside the box.
Most impressive though was his ability to retain possession and move play along quickly and efficiently, which gave England the platform to take the three points.
It was notable, then, that senior manager Gareth Southgate was in the stands in Georgia, no doubt impressed by the performance of Liverpool’s No. 17.
The goals came from Anthony Gordon and Emile Smith Rowe, with Harvey Elliott coming off the bench again as he did in the opening victory over the Czech Republic.
Elliott replaced Smith Rowe with 20 minutes of normal time remaining, taking up an advanced position in midfield just ahead of Jones.
England still have to play Germany on Wednesday evening before they can turn their focus to the quarter-finals, though they will already advance as winners of Group C.
They will then play the runners-up of Group A, which could be any of hosts Georgia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Portugal.
For Jaros and the Czech Republic, they can book their place in the quarter-finals with a positive result over Israel.