England got their Euro 2020 campaign off to a perfect start on Sunday, beating Croatia 1-0 in revenge for their painful 2018 World Cup semi-final loss to Russia.
The home side started out brilliantly under the scorching Wembley sun before losing momentum as the first half progressed, but Raheem Sterling made the crucial breakthrough in the 57th minute and Croatia failed to retaliate.
AFP Sport has retained three points of discussion in the opening match of Group D.
Foden at home
It was a decisive season for Phil Foden, who won in the Manchester City squad and secured Gareth Southgate’s vote for a starting place.
The 21-year-old had his hair dyed blonde on the eve of the tournament, seeking to channel Paul Gascoigne’s magic at Euro 96, and immediately felt at home on the big stage.
Foden only made his debut in England in September, so he probably wouldn’t have figured out if the tournament went as planned last year, before the coronavirus intervention.
Southgate picked the Premier League winner as part of an exciting front row alongside captain Harry Kane, City Sterling team-mate and Chelsea’s Mason Mount.
And Foden almost gave England the perfect start in front of home fans, hitting the post with a curled left-footed shot in the sixth minute after a typically scintillating play.
He gave way to Marcus Rashford with 20 minutes remaining, but he will be convinced he will have a big role to play as the tournament progresses.
Southgate creates a defensive surprise
England manager Gareth Southgate surprised by choosing experienced right-back Kieran Trippier on the other side of the defense, preferring him over Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell.
The young England side are embarrassed for wealth up front, but there are question marks over their defense, especially as center-back Harry Maguire is still not in great shape.
# photo1Southgate explained his decision to play Trippier out of position ahead of kick-off after Shaw enjoyed a strong season at Manchester United and Chilwell won the Champions League with Chelsea.
“With Kieran, we think (we have) a very experienced player, a good one-on-one defender to keep crosses out,” he said.
“His communication and leadership will help. We have changes in the backline and I think his experience will help us. “
Southgate’s confidence proved to be well placed as Trippier, John Stones, Tyrone Mings and Kyle Walker stifled Croatia’s few dangerous attacks.
Modric can’t find the magic touch
Luka Modric is the only man other than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to have won the Ballon d’Or since 2007 and he is the player who makes Croatia vibrate.
The almost 36-year-old Croatian midfielder is one of the tallest and most decorated midfielders of his generation and has had a great season with Real Madrid.
Modric, who won football’s most prestigious individual award in 2018, was unable to dictate the game at the start of London as England started on the front foot but stepped into the game as they progressed. and as of the first half, knitting the game of his team with his trademark passes.
# photo2But without Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic, who have withdrawn from international football since the World Cup, Modric did not have the supporting cast to stage another response.
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