Raheem Sterling Lone Goal Enough for England to Edge Out Croatia

A lone goal from Raheem Sterling helped England serve their cold revenge against Croatia, who fell to the Three Lions at Wembley in the first game of Euro 2020 Group D.

The London match-up was the remake of the 2018 World Cup Semi-Final which saw the Croats prevailing. But without Ivan Rakitic and an in-shape Mario Mandzukic, Croatia do not possess the talent that led them to the second place in Russia three years ago. Zlatko Dalic’s side appeared to be lacking ideas and totally underperformed on the front-line – where not even the coach’s multiple substitutions changed the situation.

England, on the other hand, have continued to grow and are billed among the favorites to prevail in this itinerant European competition. Still, even Gareth Southgate’s side’s performance was not overly convincing as the Englishmen found the back of the net only once and squandered a couple more chances to round up the scoring in what was not exactly the most entertaining of games.   

The game promised differently as England’ start was relentless. Before kick off, their players took the knee to support racial equality – a gesture that their coach confirmed will be done ahead of every match.

Phil Foden received the ball from Raheem Sterling and set the match ablaze with a deadly left-footed curl that hit the post. Kelvin Phillips was the next to test Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, who scrambled to parry back his conclusion but somehow managed to defuse it.   

Wembley was a pressure cooker filled with home fans and the Three Lions seemed to benefit from the support as the first 20 minutes were an English monologue. Croatia took courage after a shy start but their passes and conclusions were mostly inaccurate. As Gareth Southgate’s side slowed down their tempo, the first half concluded with no additional chances on either side.

After ten more minutes of boredom, England finally opened a breach into the Balkan defense, mostly thanks to a brilliant filtering pass from Phillips who picked up Sterling in the box. All alone against Livakovic, the Manchester City winger could make no mistake.

Five minutes later, Harry Kane missed an incredible chance to double the scoring as he missed the target from point-blank range, shooting the ball into the Wembley stands from a Mason Mount cross.

There were two changes for Croatia on 70 minutes, as disappointing Andrej Kramaric and Marcelo Brozovic were replaced with Josip Brekalo and Nikola Vlasic. Gareth Southgate answered with Marcus Rashford in place of Phil Foden.

As the match entered its final stages, Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic made another offensive substitution, with Bruno Petkovic taking Ante Rebic’s place. For England, Jude Bellingham replaced Harry Kane, and eventually Dominic Calvert-Levin was sent in for match-winner Sterling.

None of these changes had an impact on the game, however, which slowly came into an end. England made the best of the few chances they had while Croatia simply didn’t build any – their only possibility coming from a risky back-pass from Kieran Trippier that forced the Three Lions keeper to venture outside of his area to clear it. Too little for the Vatreni to hope for an equalizer.

Croatia will try to redeem themselves against Czech Republic next Friday, while England will take on Scotland in all-British derby on the same day.     


June 13, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Group D

SCORERS: 56′ Sterling

ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Mings, Trippier; Phillips, Rice; Sterling (91′ Calvert-Lewin), Mount, Foden (71′ Rashford); Kane (81′ Bellingham) (D. Henderson, Johnstone, Shaw, Grealish, J. Henderson, Coady, White, James, Saka) Coach: Southgate
CROATIA (4-3-3): Livaković; Vrsaljko, Ćaleta-Car, Vida, Gvardiol; Brozović (70′ Vlasic); Kramarić (70′ Brekalo), Modrić, Kovačić (85′ Pasalic), Perišić; Rebić (78′ Petkovic) (L. Kalinic, Sluga, Budimir, Skoric, Badelj, Juranovic, Bradaric, Ivanusec) Coach: Dalic

REFEREE: Orsato (Italy)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Foden (I), Caleta-Car, Kovacic, Brozovic (C); Extra Time: 1st Half 0′, 2nd Half 4′