PRAGUE • The growing expectations of English success at Euro 2020 was dealt a dose of reality on Friday night.
Needing a victory to secure a place in the tournament, England let an early lead slip away in a 2-1 qualifying loss to the Czech Republic in Prague.
It was their first defeat in a Euro or World Cup qualifier in 43 games dating back to 2009.
England are still in pole position in Group A, sitting top on goal difference over the Czechs with a game in hand. They can qualify with a win away at Bulgaria tomorrow and third-placed Kosovo failing to beat Montenegro.
England manager Gareth Southgate was unhappy with the display and said: "The players are human beings and some nights it doesn't happen. Tonight was one of those nights.
"We are always very realistic about where we sit. We have an exciting team that usually look like scoring goals. We know there is a long way for us to go to become one of the top teams in Europe."
Semi-final appearances at the World Cup and Nations League have led long-suffering England fans to dream about Euro success, especially with the semi-finals and final being played at Wembley.
That anticipation had grown with four straight wins to open qualifying, leaving Southgate's side needing to beat a Czech side they had already thrashed 5-0 at home to seal qualification.
Things started well when captain Harry Kane put the visitors in front from the penalty spot after just five minutes. But the visitors then went flat and the Czechs levelled four minutes later through Jakub Brabec.
England managed only half-chances from Raheem Sterling and Kane in the second half and were later caught out late when substitute Zdenek Ondrasek, making his international debut at the age of 30, scored an 85th-minute winner.
Kane said: "We weren't fighting and pressing as much as we normally do. It's a bit of a wake-up call."
Defender Kieran Trippier added: "They won a lot of second balls and had a lot of possession. We all know that we can play so much better.
"It's good that there's a game coming up on Monday as it gives us a chance to put things right."
Czech coach Jaroslav Silhavy hailed FC Dallas striker Ondrasek, saying: "It is always like this that when a coach picks a new player and that player scores, then it is the coach's golden hand."
Elsewhere, world champions France claimed a 1-0 win away to Iceland thanks to Olivier Giroud's 66th-minute penalty.
Les Bleus are level on 18 points with Turkey, who scraped past Albania 1-0 in Istanbul, atop Group H ahead of tomorrow's showdown in Paris. A victory would send Didier Deschamps' men through.
European champions Portugal beat Luxembourg 3-0 with Cristiano Ronaldo grabbing his 94th international goal, though his side trail Group B leaders Ukraine by five points. Both teams face off tomorrow in Kiev.
While England had a night to forget, it was a night to remember for Andorra.
The minnows won their first ever European qualifier after 56 losses in a row when Marc Vales' second-half header earned them a 1-0 victory over Moldova.
DPA, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE