Gareth Southgate Praises Architects of England Win Over Croatia

England enjoyed a perfect start to their Euro 2020 campaign, prevailing in a keenly-contested Group D curtain-raiser against the 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia. During the post-match interview, Gareth Southgate heaped praise on the two England stars for their roles in the all-important triumph.

Southgate’s gamble paid off. The Three Lions head coach benched Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford for Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, who decided the encounter. Moreover, his decision to play Kalvin Phillips from the start at the expense of Jude Bellingham and Jordan Henderson caught many by surprise.

However, it turned out that each Soutghate’s call was spot-on.

Sterling scored the winning goal in the 57th minute, slotting the ball past Dominik Livakovic following Phillips’ inch-perfect pass. Gareth Southgate’s men were the better side overall, though it’s fair to say that the opportunities in London were at a premium. 

The Croatians had a few half-chances but failed to trouble Jordan Pickford, producing just a single shot on target throughout 90 minutes. Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic nearly managed to upset England in the dying moments of the match. But his powerful half-volley skied over the crossbar.

England’s unbeaten record at Wembley at major tournaments continues as they have now avoided defeat in all 12 such fixtures if considered only 90 minutes of play (W7, D5). Additionally, a success against Croatia marked the Three Lions’ first victory in the European Championship openers, with the 1966 World Cup winners failing to start the competition with a win in their previous nine appearances (D5, L4).

On the other hand, Croatia’s undefeated record in the European Championship openers was halted as they had previously won four of their five such contests (D1). Including today’s loss in London, each of Croatia’s last three reverses at Euro finals yielded the same 1-0 scoreline.

In the post-game interview, Southgate singled out the two architects of England’s win.

I think that Kalvin is a player who is so understated and who has had a fantastic start to his international career,” Southgate told BBC as relayed by the Daily Express. “He was immense throughout the game, as they all were. 

I’m so pleased for Raheem. He’s had this hex, if you like, at tournaments with not being able to get a goal. I thought he was dangerous with his play. Right from the start, there was a throw-in inside and he was running at their defense and he looked a threat.

England will take on fellow United Kingdom rivals Scotland at Wembley on Matchday 2 on June 18. Meanwhile, Croatia will try to bounce back against the Czech Republic at Hampden Park on the same day.