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Four things we learned from England’s win over Croatia


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England vs Croatia​

England got their Euro 2020 campaign underway on Sunday afternoon.

The Three Lions first clash of the tournament pitted them against arguably their toughest opponent from Group D, Croatia.

Croatia of course knocked the Three Lions out of the 2018 World Cup, but they have declined somewhat since that clash.

Sunday’s first half would see England dominating for large stretches, with Phil Foden coming close very early on.

However, England were unable to make their dominance count and went in at the break with the score still at 0-0.

England would eventually take the lead in the tie shortly before the hour mark when Kalvin Phillips slipped in Raheem Sterling who made it 1-0.

And the hosts were eventually able to hold out for a huge three points, getting their Euro 2020 off to a great start and putting them in great stead to go on and top their group.

Here are five things we learned from England’s game on Sunday.

Kalvin Phillips works well further forward​

Prior to Sunday’s game getting underway at Wembley, there was some unhappiness amongst the England fan base when the starting eleven was announced.

Team news is in!

Your #ThreeLions to face Croatia in our opening game at #EURO2020👊

— England (@England) June 13, 2021

The majority of the displeasure was focused on Kalvin Phillips being included from the off.

The Leeds man and Declan Rice have played alongside each other for England in the past, with the result being a pretty flat midfield lacking creativity.

However, on Sunday, Gareth Southgate would instead deploy Rice as the sole holding midfielder, with Kalvin Phillips and Mason Mount operating in no.8 roles.

And Phillips, despite largely being used as a defensive midfielder previously, had a superb first half in his no.8 role. He was closing players down well, making smart passes and causing Croatia’s midfield a fair amount of problems.

✅ Pass perfect from Kalvin Phillips

How impressed have you been with him?

📲📺 Watch and listen on the BBC#bbceuro2020 #ENGCRO

— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 13, 2021

And, of course, his ball to set up Raheem Sterling for the opener was sublime:

That pass from Kalvin Phillips 😍

📲📺Watch & listen: #Euro2020 #bbceuro2020

— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 13, 2021

So, whilst seeing Rice and Phillips in the same England XI previously annoyed most England fans, there is likely to be much less anger in the future after seeing how well he played further forward on Sunday.

Phil Foden is excellent​

This is probably not news to regular watchers of Manchester City, but Phil Foden is already proving that he will be one of England’s best talents for many years to come.

Before Euro 2020 Foden had played just six matches for England, the last of which came back in March.

Despite this, he began the day as England’s brightest player, with his clever footwork and close control making him a nightmare for defenders.

Foden also came agonisingly close to opening the scoring after just a few minutes, smashing his effort off the post:

Agonisingly close from Phil Foden.

What a goal this would have been!

📲📺 Watch and listen on the BBC#Euro2020 #bbceuro2020 #ENGCRO

— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 13, 2021

Tyrone Mings is an ok Harry Maguire replacement, for now​

With Harry Maguire still not fully fit, Southgate opted for Tyrone Mings to fill the void left by the Manchester United man at centre-back.

After Mings’ previous showings in an England shirt, it was easy to see why some fans were slightly skeptical at having him start at Euro 2020.

However, his showing vs Croatia will have done a lot to quiet the doubters.

Mings was especially solid in the first half, commanding his box well and dominating in the air.

Will he be the best option later in the tournament when England have to face teams such as Portugal? Probably not.

But Maguire is hoping to be back for the final group game vs the Czech Republic. So, for now, Mings is a decent option to replace him.

Tyrone Mings’ first half vs. Croatia by numbers:

100% duels won
88% pass accuracy
51 total touches
3 interceptions
2 clearances
0 fouls

More than justified his inclusion. 👊

— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) June 13, 2021

Raheem Sterling’s inclusion was justified​

Like Phillips, there were some supporters not over the moon about Raheem Sterling being in from the off on Sunday, especially when Jack Grealish was left on the bench.

And it was easy to see why Sterling was not a fan favourite ahead of the tournament, with his end-of-season form for Manchester City quite poor.

However, vs Croatia, Sterling proved a real thorn in the side of the Kockasti.

The City man was one of the only England players making runs in behind, with his pace a real issue for Croatia’s right-back.

And to cap off his solid showing, Sterling would of course open the scoring, continuing his fine form for his country:

19 – Raheem Sterling has been directly involved in 19 goals in his last 17 England games (13 goals, 6 assists), while the Three Lions have won all 10 of the previous games he has scored in. Charm. #ENG #CRO #EURO2020

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 13, 2021
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