Sport Sterling strikes to give England revenge at Euros
Sportsmail's experts pick their England starting XI to face Croatia
England manager Gareth Southgate raised eyebrows when he said he knew his starting XI for the Croatia clash on Sunday 'except maybe one'. So, Sportsmail's experts picked their own teams.That 'one' is expected to be in attack, though there are question marks surrounding the line-up all over the pitch.
Raheem Sterling grew up in the shadow of Wembley Stadium as it was being rebuilt, even getting a tattoo of its famous arch on his left forearm.
Now playing for his country at the iconic venue, he used his right foot to give England the start it had been longing for at the European Championship.
The winger's goal — his first in a tournament in his 13th match through four competitions — gaveon Sunday in its opening Euro 2020 game.
"I always said to myself if I come here, growing up two minutes down the road, I've got to score," Sterling said. "It's a great feeling doing it."
It ensured England overcome its opening-game stumbling block, finally making a winning start to the continental tournament in its 10th appearance.
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With so many options for Gareth Southgate to choose from, few can agree on his best England team. To help him solve these issues, Sportsmail has teamed up with LCP and Analytics FC to helpWith Harry Maguire still missing through injury, who is the best centre-back partner for John Stones? Should Southgate revert to a three-man defence?
Far more comfortable than in the loss to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, this was an England side packed with youthful debutants.
Seventeen-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham, who plays in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, became the youngest-ever player to appear at a European Championship when he came on in the 82nd minute to replace captain Harry Kane. The previous record had been held by Jetro Willems, who was 18 when he played for the Netherlands at Euro 2012.
Sterling, still only 26, is now England's most experienced tournament player and entrusted by coach Gareth Southgate despite struggling for game time at Manchester City in recent months.
"He's been a reliable performer for us," Southgate said. "I know people are saying he hasn't hit the heights but we can't have all the burden of scoring on Harry's shoulder. We need the players in the wide areas. He looked a threat the whole day."
Grealish set to be dropped and Trippier to start at left back
Jack Grealish is set to be dropped from the starting line-up for England's Euro 2020 opener against Croatia today while Gareth Southgate is set to start Kieran Trippier over Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw.The Atletico Madrid man who is a natural right back is expected to get the nod as part of a back four for England alongside Tyrone Mings, John Stones and Kyle Walker.
After only scoring once in his previous 13 appearances for City and England, he found the breakthrough against Croatia in the 57th minute. It was the vision of Kalvin Phillips, one of five England starters making their tournament debut, that created the opening.
"He brings a lot of energy to the team," Sterling said. "He's always in the faces of the opposition and uses the ball well."
The Leeds midfielder shook of challenges before releasing Sterling, who slipped a shot into the net via a touch off Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livaković.
The sparkling moment for Sterling came two days after he was named in the queen's birthday honors list for his campaigning against racial injustice.
But at the first England game at Wembley with fans since 2019, there was a sour start when players taking a knee were jeered by their own fans. That was despite pleas from the England team to respect the anti-racism gesture.
Sterling breaks major tournament hex in Wembley 'back garden'
Raheem Sterling said he knew he would break his duck for England in major tournaments when given the chance at Wembley after netting the winner in a 1-0 victory over Croatia on Sunday. Sterling grew up in the shadow of Wembley and justified Gareth Southgate's decision to keep faith with him by scoring the only goal just before the hour. "I always said if I played at Wembley in a major tournament, I'm scoring. I had to score in my back garden and delighted to do that," he told the BBC.
There was a more unified atmosphere among the pandemic-restricted crowd of about 20,000 at the end when "Football's coming home" was sung from the team's "Three Lions" anthem while being applauded by the players.
The England players, who next face Scotland on Friday in Group D at Wembley, couldn't wait to shield from the heat of around 30 degrees Celsius on a rare sweltering day in England.
"It's not conditions we're used to and we dug in as a team," Sterling said. "It's been a long season for me. I couldn't wait to get started with England and I knew it would be a positive one."
There was a brief anxious moment in the second half after Kane collided with the post as he stretched to meet Mason Mount's cross. Notably — unlike on Saturday when Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsed in a game — the UEFA television coverage quickly cut to wide pictures of Wembley with no close-ups before Kane resumed playing.
"It's not easy coming to major tournaments and starting the way we did," Kane said.
IAN LADYMAN: Win over Croatia released the pressure valve for England
IAN LADYMAN: The first game of a big summer tournament is one of those occasions when you look at the score line first and work backwards from there. From that point of view, this was a perfect start for England and the scenes immediately after the final whistle pointed directly to that.On the touchline Gareth Southgate and his assistant Steve Holland embraced as though they had just won the final. Soon after, England’s players – weary on a blisteringly hot day – gathered to wave at their families seated with a perfect view of where Raheem Sterling had scored his winning goal.
While England gained its elusive win, containing Luka Modric in particular to restrict the midfielder's involvement, Croatia's five-game unbeaten run at the start of European Championships ended.
"In attack we didn't show much quality, but we were playing against England, who are a terrific team," Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić said. "We were their equal most of the time. This is encouraging to me and it will be better in the forthcoming matches."
Next up is a meeting with the Czech Republic at Hampden Park in Glasgow.
"It is not a disaster," Croatia defender Šime Vrsaljko said. "We had some good spells but England were better. We gave our best. We won't surrender our chances now. I am certain that things will look different over the course of the next two matches."
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Raheem Sterling: England do NOT fear Euro 2020 last-16 big boys .
The winger hints England are not afraid of the prospect of facing France, Portugal or Germany in the Euro 2020 round-of-16 after his goal sent the Three Lions through to the knockouts. The England's winger headed in the winning goal after 12 minutes for Gareth Southgate's side in their final Euro 2020 group game with Czech Republic at Wembley - a result which means the Three Lions have topped Group D.