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Sport Sportsmail's experts give their thoughts on England's win over Croatia

02:16  14 june  2021
02:16  14 june  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

Sportsmail's experts pick their England starting XI to face Croatia

  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.

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England began their Euro 2020 campaign with a 1-0 victory over Croatia at Wembley on Sunday afternoon - and Gareth Southgate's surprising selections all paid off.

Raheem Sterling was trusted to perform despite his underwhelming season with Manchester City, while his choices in midfield and left back also raised some eyebrows on social media pre-match.

In the end, it was Sterling who netted the only goal of the game and the Three Lions delivered a solid enough performance to secure a crucial three points.

Here, Sportsmail's experts CHRIS SUTTON, MARTIN KEOWN and STEPH HOUGHTON give their thoughts on how the match played out...

Kovacic giving 'insights' on Chelsea team-mates to the Croatia squad

  Kovacic giving 'insights' on Chelsea team-mates to the Croatia squad The Three Lions face a tough test to kick off their tournament at Wembley on Sunday the 2018 World Cup runners up, and Croatia have been coming up with a game plan to ensure a miserable start.The Three Lions face a tough test to kick off their tournament at Wembley on Sunday the 2018 World Cup runners up, and Croatia players have been coming up with a game plan to ensure a miserable start for England, according to Lille defender Domagoj Bradaric.

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CHRIS SUTTON - Southgate's calls were proven to be correct

Even before England’s Euro 2020 opener got going, the hashtag ‘SouthgateOut’ was trending on Twitter.

Upon seeing the team sheet, I didn’t agree with playing right back Kieran Trippier at left back, but I would never stop supporting Gareth Southgate because of that.

Thankfully for England’s manager, the end justified the means. One by one, Southgate’s calls were proven to be correct.

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The first mistake he made — according to the court of social media - was naming two holding midfielders in Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips. In actual fact, Phillips was positioned much higher than Rice and being used as more of a No 8.

Chris Sutton's form guide ahead of England v Croatia

  Chris Sutton's form guide ahead of England v Croatia CHRIS SUTTON: While England have arguably one of the most talented squads they have taken to a major tournament, Croatia are far from also-rans. Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton names both his England and Croatia teams ahead of the match and ranks the players on their recent form. England JORDAN PICKFORD - 7/10Made mistakes for Everton, ended Virgil van Dijk’s season with a wild lunge but not done much wrong for England, so he’s No 1.KYLE WALKER - 8Just completed his best season in a Manchester City shirt and, of all the right back options, he should be starting. Rapid and safe.

The Leeds United midfielder was the best player on the park here, showing what a wonderfully complete footballer he is and assisting Raheem Sterling’s winner. So let’s say that’s Southgate 1, social media 0.

His next mistake was starting Sterling rather than Jack Grealish. He has not enjoyed his greatest of seasons for Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola using him infrequently of late. But Sterling was behind England’s winner.

I’m not saying Grealish would not have made the same run, but all that matters is Sterling did and it’s a winning start to Euro 2020. That’s Southgate 2, social media 0.

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We could make it 3-0 by mentioning why he was right to use Tyrone Mings, who had a good game. Or 4-0 for trusting Trippier over a perfectly good Luke Shaw or Ben Chilwell.

We all have our own ideas of team selection but at the end of the day, it’s the England manager whose decisions matter. He sees these players every day in training. He knows better than us what they can and cannot do.

Jenas and Murphy pick their England starting XIs to face Croatia

  Jenas and Murphy pick their England starting XIs to face Croatia There are a plethora of selection decisions for Gareth Southgate to contend with ahead of the game, including who plays at left-back and whether Jack Grealish will start. Sportsmail's former England internationals Jermaine Jenas and Danny Murphy name the starting lineups that they would choose. © Provided by Daily Mail ( JERMAINE JENAS Defence: Jordan Pickford’s experience is key and he’s still the best keeper with his feet, which is so important to how England play. Kyle Walker is the best right-back in the Premier League and his experience against Perisic is vital.

In securing a 1-0 win against a solid Croatia side, Southgate must be applauded. He made brave decisions, he trusted his instincts, and England won.

MARTIN KEOWN - England managing Kane for the long haul

In their analysis of the 2018 World Cup, England noticed how the eventual winners, France, started Antoine Griezmann in every game but didn’t make him play a full 90 minutes until the semi-final and final.

Gareth Southgate and his staff have taken that on board as they look to manage Harry Kane this time around. England aren’t planning on a short stay, they want to see the very end. Kane was taken off after 82 minutes here; all being well, his first 90 will come once England return to Wembley for the semis.

Including Kane, the front six who started against Croatia were the same as those who Southgate started against Albania and Poland in the World Cup qualifiers in March.

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This combination — of Kane, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice — wasn’t just thrown together for this opener against Croatia.

IAN LADYMAN: Win over Croatia released the pressure valve for England

  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.

Southgate trusted what he saw from those players against Albania and Poland and stood by that plan. It worked, too. The sight of Phillips’s name on the team sheet was met with surprise by some — as was Sterling’s.

But Phillips put in the best performance I’ve seen from him in an England shirt and he assisted Sterling for his winner. He and Mount knew when to press and when to help Rice.

At the back, Tyrone Mings filled in for Harry Maguire and dealt with the enormity of the occasion.

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John Stones was dominant and clearly the leader in the backline. On the left, the experienced Kieran Trippier helped the less experienced Mings. England’s defence didn’t present any opportunities to Croatia.

This victory and clean sheet can seriously lift the team. If you don’t win your opener, when the expectation is already huge given the build-up, the second game becomes even bigger. Thankfully, England won 1-0 in the end.

The pressure remains, but it’s a nicer pressure. They can find freedom in their work now. Southgate will accept the plaudits coming his players’ way and use it in the right way, I’m sure.

STEPH HOUGHTON - Sterling produces in an England shirt

A thoroughly deserved win for England and a great start to the tournament. For the whole of the game, they controlled the tempo and possession, they were solid in defence and limited Croatia to few chances.

Sterling strikes to give England revenge at Euros

  Sterling strikes to give England revenge at Euros Raheem Sterling grew up in the shadow of Wembley Stadium. Now he's scored a vital goal for his country at the venue.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.

They showed their intent in the first 20 minutes. They wanted to press hard, be aggressive and catch Croatia on the counter — shown by Phil Foden’s early chance.

England will be happy with the performance going into the next game against Scotland. It was a really well-worked goal for Raheem Sterling. He stretched their backline, made runs in behind and made it difficult for Croatia all afternoon.

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When Sterling pulls on an England shirt, he produces his best performances and I’m really pleased for him.

Kalvin Phillips was outstanding - breaking up play, getting aggressive against Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic - he covered every blade of the Wembley grass.

Hopefully, they can take this confidence and momentum into Scotland.

Read more

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A man of the match display against England from the 20-year-old raised expectations but he will now play no part in a winner-takes-all clash at Hampden Park against Croatia on Tuesday.A man of the match display against England from the 20-year-old raised expectations that Scotland could progress from a winner-takes-all clash against Croatia at Hampden Park on Tuesday night.

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