LONDON — England got off to a perfect start at EURO 2020 as they beat Croatia 1-0 on a sweltering day at Wembley in front of their own fans.
Chants of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ are already, very prematurely, being belted out on the streets of England.
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Raheem Sterling scored the only goal of the game in the second half to secure three points for England in Group D, as they huffed and puffed but looked more dangerous throughout. Croatia had a few half chances, but nothing more, as Luka Modric couldn’t inspire his ageing side.
This was the first time England had ever won their opening game of a European Championship tournament.
Gareth Southgate’s England now face old foes Scotland at Wembley on Friday, while Croatia play against the Czech Republic at Hampden Park on the same day.
3 things we learned, England – Croatia
1. England found a way: It wasn’t the best display, and Croatia sat deep and let them have a lot of the ball, but England found a way. The Three Lions are better as a counter-attacking team, and teams know that, but this young England side kept probing and the goal proved they have quality to unlock a stubborn defense.
2. Jaded Croatia caught out: They had a few shots from distance, but that was about it. Croatia were poor from start to finish and played for the draw. Modric tried his best to wrestle control of this game, just like he did in the World Cup semifinal three years ago, but this time he couldn’t rally the troops.
3. Rice, Phillips come of age: With Jordan Henderson out injured, the duo of Phillips and Rice were thrust into their first major tournament together. They stood tall and dominated the classy trio of Modric, Kovacic and Brozovic. Defensively they were sound but they always looked to keep the ball and they showed a lot of maturity.
Man of the Match: Kalvin Phillips – The Yorkshire Iniesta was solid defensively and created the winner. He and Declan Rice kept Modric quiet.
England started well as Phil Foden hit the post with a curling shot, while Raheem Sterling saw a dangerous run denied.
Kalvin Phillips had a shot blocked from the resulting corner, as Croatia sat back deeper and deeper during the first half and provided little attacking threat.
Sterling won a free kick in a dangerous position but Trippier’s effort was blocked by Perisic in the wall.
In the second half Croatia showed a little more attacking intent, but it was England who took the lead.
The brilliant Phillips surged towards goal and slotted through for Sterling, who finished from close range as the home fans at Wembley went wild.
Raheem Sterling opens the scoring for England!
What a moment at Wembley! 🏴 pic.twitter.com/1lPzXmTPrs
— ESPN (@espn) June 13, 2021
Harry Kane almost made it 2-0 as he collided with the post, while Ante Rebic dragged a shot wide as Croatia went for it in the final 25 minutes.
England had chances on the break, as Mason Mount whipped a free kick inches over the bar, then Sterling lashed a great chance over after the ball was nodded down to him.
The Three Lions held on as England’s fans are dreaming of glory.