The first game of Group D of Euro 2020 began as England welcomed Croatia to Wembley. The last time these two sides met in a major tournament was the 2018 World Cup semi final as Croatia beat England 2-1 after going into extra time. With The Three Lions wanting revenge and never having won an opening game in the European Championships and Croatia wanting a perfect start to the group (that also consists of Czech Republic and Scotland who play on the 14th June) the game kicked off with a mixture of excitement and nerves.
The game kicked off with many question marks over Gareth Southgate’s team selection as he started Trippier at left-back who is right footed and normally plays right-back with two left-backs that have had very good seasons with their clubs (Luke Shaw for Manchester United and Ben Chilwell at Chelsea). Many eyebrows were also raised when Kalvin Phillips and Raheem Sterling were selected in the starting eleven along with Tyrone Mings who did not put in very good performances in the friendly games before the Euros began.
Croatia’s midfield also seemed very strong as it consisted of Luka Modric (previous Ballon D’or winner), Marcelo Brozovic (player for Inter Milan who just won the Serie A) and Mateo Kovacic (player for Chelsea who just won the UEFA Champions League). Ivan Perisic also started on the left for the Croatians who scored against England in the World Cup semi final which would be a threat the Three Lions would have to minimise.
England Vs Croatia – The Match
The home side started better as Manchester City youngster Phil Foden hit the post within 6 minutes by cutting in from the right onto his favoured left foot and trying to place it into the far corner. The pressure continued as Kalvin Phillips had a low volley on the edge of the box that was well saved by Croatia keeper Livakovic. Sterling and Phillips then linked up well and a smart flick put Sterling through but a crucial block by Croatia centre back Caleta-Car kept the ball out of the Croatian net.
The pressure from the English side seemed to dissipate as the half went on as Croatia grew into the game more but failing to create any real chances. Harry Kane was dropping deeper to try and get on the ball more after having no great effect which was shown through his frustration.
As the second half started, the Croatians came out on the front foot but still were unable to create anything to challenge Jordan Pickford. In the 57th minute, Kalvin Phillips weaved his way in from the right beating several players and then placed a clever through ball finding the run of Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling in which he managed to finish even though Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper, Livakovic, did get a hand to it. This was his first-ever first-ever goal in an international major tournament.
England continued to apply the pressure after the goal as Premier League golden boot winner, Harry Kane, missed a big opportunity at the far post after a very good cross from Chelsea youngster, Mason Mount. A few more chances started to fall as Mount put a free-kick just over the bar and Rebic had a chance for Croatia but dragged it wide of the post which he should’ve done better with. Sterling could’ve sealed the points but failed to control his left-footed volley as it sailed over the bar.
History was made in the 82nd minute as Jude Bellingham came on for the home side, becoming the youngest player to appear in the finals of the tournament at 17 years and 349 days. The favourites managed to comfortably see out the game as they beat Dalic’s side by one goal to nil.
Many fans doubted both Tyrone Mings and Kalvin Phillips involvement in the starting eleven but both played well, especially Phillips as he put in a MOTM performance. Mings was very dominant in the air and did not cause any scares which he has done previously. Southgate deployed Phillips is more of a box-to-box role which he has not played before as he plays as a deep-lying playmaker for his club, Leeds United under Marcelo Bielsa. He linked the defence to attack very well with some superb dribbling and tackling also.
Sterling also stood out as he was an outlet to the English attack with his fine movement causing mayhem between the Croatians. However, on some occasions, he was lacking the cutting edge. Mason Mount did also impress as per usual, causing the Croatia defence problems by using his body well in situations and using his gifted technique on the ball.
Player ratings: Pickford – 6, Walker – 5, Stones – 6.5, Mings – 8, Trippier – 6, Rice – 6.5, Phillips – 9, Foden – 7, Mount – 7.5, Sterling – 8, Kane – 6. Subs: Rashford – 6, Bellingham – N/A, Calvert-Lewin – N/A
As expected, Croatian captain Luka Modric impressed using all his experience as he tried linking the defence to attack. Throughout the game, Ivan Perisic struggled to make an impact which came as a surprise as he was one of their main threats. Atletico Madrid full-back, Sime Vrsaljko, managed to keep Phil Foden from having a massive involvement in the game as he also impressed.
So What’s Next For The Teams?
The three lions now face rivals Scotland on Friday night and if they were to win, it would be a massive step for them to get out of the group stages. They would also hope that Harry Maguire will be fit and Jordan Henderson will be back to full fitness so they can have some involvement. Furthermore, the English fans will not want to be disappointed once again and have high expectations for this squad.
The Kockasti faces the Czech Republic in a must-win game for them to qualify to the last 16 but will feel confident as they were not dominated by England and should certainly not feel embarrassed. After their World Cup final appearance, fans will hope for them to go far in the tournament.
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