England’s ‘outstanding’ midfield led by Kalvin Phillips boosts hopes of a deep run but ‘morons’ booing players taking a knee DEFIES belief… Sportsmail’s experts judge the GOOD, BAD and the UGLY from England’s opening game victory at Euro 2020
- England beat Croatia 1-0 on Sunday to get their Euro 2020 off to a strong start
- Raheem Sterling fired the winner, assisted by a star performer in Kalvin Phillips
- Sportsmail’s experts gave their good, bad and ugly moments from the opener
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here.
With a 1-0 win, England got their Euro 2020 campaign off to a great start ahead of Friday’s big game against Scotland at Wembley.
Raheem Sterling’s second-half goal, assisted by Kalvin Phillips, made sure the Three Lions grabbed maximum points in their opening Group D game, but just how good were they?
Here, Sportsmail’s experts give their opinions…
England roared into life at Euro 2020 on Sunday with a 1-0 victory over Croatia at Wembley
THE GOOD: Take your pick. Kalvin Phillips showing he’s more than just a good No 6, and Gareth Southgate recognising this. Raheem Sterling repaying his manager’s faith by scoring the winner and silencing the doubters.
THE BAD: Maybe Ben Chilwell or Luke Shaw might offer better balance down the left than Kieran Trippier, the right back who was always looking to come inside off the line.
THE UGLY: Booing the taking of the knee. England released a statement before this match which unequivocally outlined what this gesture means. Yet still, some morons decided they’d jeer an act of anti-racism. It defies belief.
Kalvin Phillips was one of the surprise inclusions on Sunday but proved his worth in the game
THE GOOD: England’s midfield. Phillips and Mason Mount beside Declan Rice were outstanding. They went into this clash with 41 caps between them. Croatia’s midfield boasted 264 — Luka Modric on 138, Mateo Kovacic on 67 and Marcelo Brozovic on 59. But there was only one winner in this area of the pitch, and that was England.
THE BAD: I feel bad for the two left backs who started in the Champions League and Europa League finals but missed out. Southgate’s use of Trippier worked but Chilwell and Shaw’s noses will be slightly out of joint. That will make them determined to impress their manager in training.
THE UGLY: Performance-wise, nothing at all. Southgate oversaw a 1-0 win, his defence kept a clean sheet without Harry Maguire, they were always in control and are now in a strong position.
Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell and Man United’s Luke Shaw will have been frustrated to be left out
Southgate’s gamble of putting Kieran Trippier at left back, in an unnatural role, paid off
THE GOOD: I thought there was a composure about England’s performance. They could have panicked after their bright start didn’t lead to a goal, especially as Croatia began to come in to the game either side of half-time.
But Southgate’s players seemed to realise that progress in a tournament is all about baby steps. A draw would have been OK. In the end, they grabbed something better.
THE BAD: Just two shots on target and one of them came early on from Phillips from distance. And at times we seemed to lack a focal point up front. Did Kane come a little deep too often? Maybe.
Something to work on, then. If you want to beat good sides, you need to find a way through more often than once every 45 minutes.
THE UGLY: As Croatia briefly held sway early in the second half, English legs started to swipe too rashly at Luka Modric. Two fouls in particular could have led to yellow cards and we could do with as few of those as possible.
England will have to ensure they stay disciplined late in games after biting at Luka Modric
THE GOOD: Southgate’s calm leadership. He knew what team he wanted to pick, he entrusted young players to go and see the game out — what a glowing reference it was for Jude Bellingham’s character that he was a late substitute — and his tactics were perfect.
THE BAD: A minor quibble but, to this observer, Kane didn’t look quite as sharp as you might expect. The fireworks that came from Italy’s Ciro Immobile and Romelu Lukaku of Belgium were not repeated by England’s captain and the moment he clattered into a post was a worry.
All being well, this is just going to be a slow start for Kane but it would be a big concern if the striker was found to be suffering with a fitness issue.
THE UGLY: I’m not bothered if people roll their eyes at this but the venom from those who booed England’s players taking the knee was despicable.
These young men were on their knees for 6.76 seconds — I made a point of timing it — but still the oiks cannot keep their mouths shut. Let it be said again: the players are not making a political point. They are fighting for equality. If you want to boo, give up your ticket and go somewhere else.
Gareth Southgate made top choices on Sunday and showed he’s got a masterplan for England
THE GOOD: England’s game management. They sensed when it was time to go for the jugular and when it would be more beneficial to be less proactive in attack. That’s a sign of a team bursting with confidence and belief.
THE BAD: Carving out clear opportunities is still a worry. They finished the game with just two shots on target. It’s hard to argue after a positive result but if England continue to stutter in terms of creativity, reaching the latter stages could prove a problem.
THE UGLY: The ‘No Surrenders’ during the National Anthem. Are we not past this yet? Thank heavens that the smattering of boos that greeted players taking the knee were drowned out by the applause.
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