European Championship - Group D

Euro 2020: England 1-0 Croatia - Raheem Sterling helps Three Lions begin with victory

By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Wembley

England's Euro 2020 campaign got off to a winning start as Raheem Sterling's goal secured victory over Croatia at Wembley.

Sterling repaid England manager Gareth Southgate's faith in him, sliding in the winner after 57 minutes following a perfect pass from man-of-the-match Kalvin Phillips.

Southgate resisted the temptation to play Aston Villa's Jack Grealish and was rewarded with a lively performance from Sterling as England secured the win their superiority deserved.

The Three Lions almost took an early lead when Phil Foden struck a post but there were the first signs of frustration from fans and players just as Sterling made the decisive contribution with his first goal in a major tournament.

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was barely tested by a disappointing Croatia side, who never looked like repeating their victory over England in the 2018 World Cup semi-final in Moscow - leaving England with three points to take into Friday's second Group D game against Scotland at Wembley.

Phillips puts in statement performance

Leeds United's Phillips has been branded 'The Yorkshire Pirlo' by his adoring fans at Elland Road. This was a performance all his own and one of the highest class.

From the first whistle, the 25-year-old was calm, creative and England's most assured player both in the periods when they dominated and also when they lost impetus and suffered spells of frustration.

He tested Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic early on but his most important contribution came with a run and pass that provided Sterling with the perfect opportunity to break Croatia's resistance.

This was Phillips' first game in a major tournament, one in which he was central to Southgate's system alongside Declan Rice, but also with a heavy weight of responsibility as experienced Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is still not considered fully match fit.

Phillips was often simply regarded as a holding midfield player in his early days but under the tutelage of manager Marco Bielsa at Leeds, and thanks to his own endeavours, he is now so much more.

It was a statement performance from Phillips and one that surely guarantees his place against Scotland next Friday.

Sterling answers the doubters

There were genuine questions to be asked about Sterling's place in England's team for this opening game after a period of indifferent form when even Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola felt able to do without him as City won a third Premier League title in four years.

However, Southgate has never wavered for a second in his belief that Sterling is integral to his England plans so it was no surprise when he was selected - and he proceeded to show exactly why he is so highly regarded by his country's management team.

He was a constant threat when England attacked in a potent trio with Foden and Mason Mount operating behind a very subdued Harry Kane.

Sterling had Croatia's defenders on the back foot and it was fully merited when he stole into space in the penalty area to convert a perfect pass from Phillips.

He could have added a second late on but his finish was wayward. He still deserved the huge ovation he received when he was substitute for Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the closing moments.

Raheem Sterling scores
Raheem Sterling has scored 13 goals in his past 17 appearances for England

England subdue disappointing Croatia

Croatia arrived at Wembley with confidence bolstered by their record of important wins over England in the past, most notably that World Cup semi-final triumph in 2018.

Here, they looked a shadow of the impressively gifted side that performed so brilliantly in Russia and will be bitterly disappointed that they failed to give England keeper Pickford any serious moments of anxiety.

They survived a rocky opening period to restore a measure of order for the last 20 minutes of the first half, but even then their performance was more about possession and tempo than threat.

The visitors failed to build on that improved conclusion to the first period after the break, allowing England to regain the initiative and once Sterling scored this game never had any sense of a comeback from Zlatko Dalic's side.

Croatia still have the great midfield manipulator Luka Modric but real quality is in shorter supply around him than it was and they will have to improve.

'It doesn't mean we've qualified' - Southgate

England boss Gareth Southgate to BBC Radio 5 Live: "I'm most pleased with the performance. Of course the win is important. To win the first game relieves some tension but it doesn't mean we've qualified and that's the first objective.

"The performance was really good. It was a big occasion, a sweltering hot day and the players settled really quickly, used the ball well and we limited Croatia to very few clear chances throughout the game.

"They are a good opponent who we have huge respect for and we know so much about, so I couldn't be happier with not just the players that started but those who came in and the whole group for the way they prepared for this game."

Bellingham sets new Three Lions record - the stats

  • England won their opening game of a European Championship finals at the 10th attempt (D5, L4).
  • Croatia have lost eight of their 14 games in all competitions since the start of 2020 (W4 D2); before this, they had lost just eight of their previous 33 matches (W17 D8).
  • England have won seven consecutive matches across all competitions for the first time since March 2015 under Roy Hodgson.
  • Raheem Sterling has been directly involved in 19 goals in his last 17 appearances for England (13 goals, six assists
  • Jude Bellingham (17 years and 349 days) became the youngest ever player to appear in the European Championship finals for any nation, and the youngest English player to play in any major tournament (World Cup & Euros).

What's next?

England host Scotland at Wembley on Friday, 18 June (20:00 BST). Croatia play the Czech Republic at Hampden Park the same evening (17:00 BST).

Player of the match

PhillipsKalvin Phillips

with an average of 8.38


  1. Squad number14Player namePhillips
    Average rating


  2. Squad number15Player nameMings
    Average rating


  3. Squad number10Player nameSterling
    Average rating


  4. Squad number19Player nameMount
    Average rating


  5. Squad number20Player nameFoden
    Average rating


  6. Squad number4Player nameRice
    Average rating


  7. Squad number1Player namePickford
    Average rating


  8. Squad number5Player nameStones
    Average rating


  9. Squad number12Player nameTrippier
    Average rating


  10. Squad number26Player nameBellingham
    Average rating


  11. Squad number11Player nameRashford
    Average rating


  12. Squad number2Player nameWalker
    Average rating


  13. Squad number18Player nameCalvert-Lewin
    Average rating


  14. Squad number9Player nameKane
    Average rating



  1. Squad number10Player nameModric
    Average rating


  2. Squad number8Player nameKovacic
    Average rating


  3. Squad number1Player nameLivakovic
    Average rating


  4. Squad number4Player namePerisic
    Average rating


  5. Squad number11Player nameBrozovic
    Average rating


  6. Squad number2Player nameVrsaljko
    Average rating


  7. Squad number25Player nameGvardiol
    Average rating


  8. Squad number21Player nameVida
    Average rating


  9. Squad number5Player nameCaleta-Car
    Average rating


  10. Squad number9Player nameKramaric
    Average rating


  11. Squad number17Player nameRebic
    Average rating


  12. Squad number7Player nameBrekalo
    Average rating


  13. Squad number13Player nameVlasic
    Average rating


  14. Squad number15Player namePasalic
    Average rating


  15. Squad number20Player namePetkovic
    Average rating




Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Pickford
  • 2Walker
  • 5Stones
  • 15Mings
  • 12Trippier
  • 14Phillips
  • 4Rice
  • 19Mount
  • 20FodenBooked at 64minsSubstituted forRashfordat 71'minutes
  • 9KaneSubstituted forBellinghamat 82'minutes
  • 10SterlingSubstituted forCalvert-Lewinat 90+2'minutes


  • 3Shaw
  • 7Grealish
  • 8Henderson
  • 11Rashford
  • 13Henderson
  • 16Coady
  • 18Calvert-Lewin
  • 22White
  • 23Johnstone
  • 24James
  • 25Saka
  • 26Bellingham


Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Livakovic
  • 2Vrsaljko
  • 21Vida
  • 5Caleta-CarBooked at 42mins
  • 25Gvardiol
  • 10Modric
  • 11BrozovicBooked at 66minsSubstituted forVlasicat 70'minutes
  • 8KovacicBooked at 48minsSubstituted forPasalicat 85'minutes
  • 9KramaricSubstituted forBrekaloat 70'minutes
  • 17RebicSubstituted forPetkovicat 78'minutes
  • 4Perisic


  • 7Brekalo
  • 12L Kalinic
  • 13Vlasic
  • 14Budimir
  • 15Pasalic
  • 16Skoric
  • 19Badelj
  • 20Petkovic
  • 22Juranovic
  • 23Sluga
  • 24Bradaric
  • 26Ivanusec
Daniele Orsato

Match Stats

Home TeamEnglandAway TeamCroatia
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, England 1, Croatia 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, England 1, Croatia 0.

  3. Post update

    Attempt missed. Mario Pasalic (Croatia) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.

  4. Substitution

    Substitution, England. Dominic Calvert-Lewin replaces Raheem Sterling.

  5. Post update

    Jude Bellingham (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  6. Post update

    Foul by Domagoj Vida (Croatia).

  7. Post update

    John Stones (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  8. Post update

    Foul by Duje Caleta-Car (Croatia).

  9. Substitution

    Substitution, Croatia. Mario Pasalic replaces Mateo Kovacic.

  10. Post update

    Foul by Jude Bellingham (England).

  11. Post update

    Luka Modric (Croatia) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  12. Substitution

    Substitution, England. Jude Bellingham replaces Harry Kane.

  13. Post update

    Foul by Kieran Trippier (England).

  14. Post update

    Bruno Petkovic (Croatia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  15. Post update

    Raheem Sterling (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Nikola Vlasic (Croatia).

  17. Substitution

    Substitution, Croatia. Bruno Petkovic replaces Ante Rebic.

  18. Post update

    Attempt missed. Raheem Sterling (England) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Tyrone Mings with a headed pass following a set piece situation.

  19. Post update

    Harry Kane (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  20. Post update

    Foul by Duje Caleta-Car (Croatia).


Join the conversation

These comments are now closed.