England 1-0 Croatia: Sterling nets for Three Lions as they start their Group D adventure with three points
England’s Euro 2020 campaign is up and running and the Three Lions have three points on the board after a 1-0 win over Croatia at Wembley on Sunday.
England made a fine start to proceedings and created a host of good openings, the best of which saw Phil Foden strike the base of the post after checking back onto his left foot. Raheem Sterling saw an effort blocked and a low Kalvin Phillips drive was saved too, but Gareth Southgate’s side lost momentum after that 20-minute burst.
Croatia did then enjoy a more sustained run of possession, but created very little until a mis-hit effort from Ivan Perisic right before the break.
After half-time England started to push on once more and finally found the breakthrough when Phillips freed Sterling, who buried his strike for a first-ever goal at a major international tournament and the only goal of the game.
Here are five things we learned from the Group D opener.
Trippier on the left
Eyebrows were raised even before kick-off, with Jadon Sancho out of the squad entirely and Kieran Trippier picked at left-back, with Luke Shaw sub and Ben Chilwell joining Sancho in watching from the sidelines.
The Atletico Madrid man had several positive moments throughout the game, quick releases of the ball forwards and a couple of decent covering moments defensively.
He was beaten by club team-mate Sime Vrsaljko once or twice, with crosses mainly coming from his side of the pitch, but overall it was a solid display which will leave Southgate feeling vindicated at his choice.
From top scorer at the World Cup, to barely noticeable in the opener at the Euros.
Spurs striker Kane was marginalised throughout, managing just 26 touches of the ball before being subbed for the final eight minutes or so.
England’s midfield didn’t provide crosses or through passes which really benefitted his penalty-box presence, but nor did Kane himself get involved in build-up play the way he’s capable of doing.
Kalvin Phillips was, without question, England’s finest performer on the day.
He committed a few fouls, but most of these were of the ‘tactical’ variety, while on the ball he was progressive, adventurous when possible and claimed the assist.
A word, too, for Tyrone Mings at the back – he might not have been the first-choice starter for many, but he didn’t put a foot wrong and made plenty of good decisions in the first half when covering counters.
This was, by and large, a low-key display from Croatia – in keeping with their recent form.
They have won only four of 14 across the last year, struggling to find a real balance between their impressive midfield, and an inconsistent attack. The lack of pace also really showed at times with counter-attacks ponderous and easily halted.
Croatia have work to do to assure their progression.
Looking ahead to Scotland
With one foot in the last-16 already after this three points, England boss Southgate will be considering his options for the next two group games.
Scotland will undoubtedly be a tempestuous ‘local’ affair, and the Three Lions already know that leaving everything hinging on beating Czech Republic wouldn’t be too intelligent.
Changes therefore could be afoot, for tactical as much as physical reasons, and there has now been a standard set to live up to.