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Four things we learned from England’s win over Croatia

Four things we learned from England’s win over Croatia

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 Gareth Southgate’s men out of the 2018 World Cup, but they have declined somewhat since.

Sunday’s first half saw England dominate for large stretches, with Phil Foden having come close very early on.

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

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

And the Three Lions were eventually able to hold out for a huge three points, getting their Euro 2020 campaign off to a positive start, and putting them in great stead to go on and top Group D.

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

Kalvin Phillips works well further forward

Prior to this afternoon’s action getting underway at Wembley, there was some unhappiness amongst the England fanbase, when the nation’s starting eleven was announced.

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

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

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

And the former, despite his previously deeper position, enjoyed a superb first-half in his new role. He closed players down well, made smart passes and caused Croatia’s midfield a fair few problems.

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

So, whilst seeing Rice and Phillips in the same XI may have previously annoyed England fans, there will likely be much less frustration in the future, considering how well the latter played in his no.8 role on Sunday.

Phil Foden is excellent

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

Before Euro 2020, Foden had played just six matches for his country, the latest of which came back in March.

Despite this, he began today’s clash as England’s brightest player, with his clever footwork and close control having proven a nightmare for Croatia’s defenders.

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

Tyrone Mings is an okay Harry Maguire replacement, for now

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

Considering 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 in contention for the final group game vs the Czech Republic. So, for now, Mings is a decent option to replace him.

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 exactly a fan favourite ahead of the tournament, with his end-of-season form for Manchester City rather poor.

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

The City man stood as 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 of course netted the only goal of the clash, continuing his fine form for his country:

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This article was edited by Conor Laird.