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England had to Raheem Sterling thank for as they opened their Euro campaign with a win over Croatia. A partially occupied Wembley cheered the Three Lions as they ground out three points against Croatia. Few might feel that the Lions have avenged their World Cup semi-final loss from 2018. This might be the first step in bringing the trophy home.



The game started in England’s favour as they dominated the opening exchanges. Phil Foden hit the post early on and Kalvin Phillips let a volley fly. Croatia slowly grew into the game and broke England’s fluency. The first half then turned into a drab affair as neither side had the sting. There was little improvement in the second half but the hosts found inspiration suddenly.

Kalvin Phillips danced away from tackles and found Sterling with a delicate ball. The Manchester City winger shot first-time past a hapless Dominik Livakovic into the centre of the net. Croatia were desperate to level the game but were stopped easily by John Stones and co.

Gareth Southgate opted for a four-man backline and his selection surprised everyone. He selected a right-footed Kieran Trippier at left-back ahead of the specialists. A 4-2-3-1 was on the show with Harry Kane leading the line.

Zlatko Dalic stuck with his favorite 4-3-3. There were no surprises in his starting lineup. He opted for a workmanlike midfield with Luka Modric being their creative force. Ante Rebic led the line flanked by veteran Ivan Perisic and the fluent Andrej Kramaric.



England made their intentions clear right from the word go. They wanted to settle few nerves and calm the situation by getting an early goal. The crowd back in the stadiums cheered for their side ferociously.



Raheem Sterling who was given a surprise start made most of it. He was playing through the middle and enjoyed life there. Having won the ball in his own half he raced into Croatia’s half and teed up Phil Foden. Foden taking inspiration from Paul Gascoigne turned blonde and produced a Gazza moment. The youngster found the post with a left-footed shot. England failed to capitalize on the energetic start.

Croatia grew into the game suddenly. They held onto the ball and slowed the tempo. This is what they like and they enjoyed doing it. Ball gravitated towards Modric and he tried his best to make magic with it. The half then petered out and ended 0-0. It was a drab affair and the fourth official opted against adding any injury time.



Kalvin Phillips was the best English player in the first half. Deployed in a pivot alongside Declan Rice, the Leeds United midfielder ran the show. He was winning the ball constantly and trying to progress it forward. A ferocious volley struck from outside was parried away by Livakovic.



Phillips started the second half where he left off. A loose ball was picked on the right inside channel. With his agile dribbling, he beat two challenges and played a lovely weighted ball into the middle for Sterling. Sterling finished it sensibly to give hosts the lead. For a man criticized for his finishing, it was some goal.



The goal opened up the match a little as there was no point in Croatia simply defending. They threw bodies forwards and were susceptible on the counter. England broke forward once with Mason Mount putting a lovely ball only for Harry Kane to miss a volley. The Croats tried their best to level but found no success.



When England announced their lineup it created shockwaves across the world. Despite having specialist left-backs in Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell, Kieran Trippier was chosen. Star winger Jadon Sancho was mysteriously left out of the squad. Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford were benched for an underfire Sterling.



A 4-2-3-1 was deployed and England were expected to struggle. They missed Harry Maguire in defence as he hasn’t recovered from an injury yet. Jordan Henderson wasn’t fully fit to feature in the game as a young pivot of Rice and Phillips was fielded. The Lions instead stepped up the tone as their young core started to fire. Mason Mount and Phil Foden looked lively and created chances.

The use of Harry Kane as a decoy came as a surprise move. Kane in the form of his life was expected to light up the tournament. He was surprisingly used as a decoy as a majority of their attacks went through Sterling who was playing as a centre-forward. This same tactic led to the goal as Kane drew centre-backs out wide and Sterling danced through the middle.

Southgate’s ingame management and substitutions were spot on too. They warmed up well before a grudge match against Scotland next time out.



Croatia looked dry on the evening as they failed to create anything tangible. They entered the tournament as dark horses and looked like anything but at Wembley. They missed their star men Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzuckic who retired after their 2018 world cup heroics.



It looks like they don’t have much creativity in their ranks apart from Luka Modric. Modric too was closed down effectively by Rice and Phillips. Creativity is the key if you don’t have men who could do magic out of nothing.

Their forwards were blunt and found no service. Ante Rebic is not ready for the biggest stage yet. An inexperienced Tyrone Mings was hardly tested at the back. In fact, Croatia had no shots on target in the first half. They went on to improve in the second half as they were desperate for an equalizer. Zlatko Dalic has a lot of thinking to do as they face a well-drilled Czech Republic next time out.

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