England at Euro 2020: Gareth Southgate makes experience count as England beat Croatia in Group D

Raheem Sterling scored the only goal of the game as England beat Croatia 1-0 in their opening Euro 2020 fixture; England next play Scotland on Friday night

England boss Gareth Southgate
Image: Gareth Southgate celebrates after England beat Croatia in their opening Euro 2020 match

England boss Gareth Southgate hailed the roles of Raheem Sterling and Kalvin Phillips, and the experience of his side, as England made a winning start to Euro 2020.

Sterling scored the only goal of the game as England beat Croatia at a sun-drenched Wembley.

"I thought from the first minute to the last it was a really good performance," Southgate told ITV. "We knew we had to get pressure on their midfield, that was key."

The England manager had sprung a surprise before the game when he opted to deploy Kieran Trippier at left-back. But Southgate's selections were fully vindicated as the Three Lions delivered a composed and impressive performance to beat the World Cup finalists.

"I wanted to put lots of experienced players in today. We have a lot of young players and on days like this, experience is important."

Speaking immediately after the game to the BBC, Southgate said: "The players dealt with the big occasion really well right from the start.

"They played really well, they settled early in the game. There were moments when the tempo dropped just because of the heat, but for the majority of the game, we were in control, we didn't give them many opportunities and we looked dangerous.

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"I thought they [the back four] coped very well. With Croatia, I think you have to put pressure on their midfield players especially and we managed to do that. That limits some of the supply, but the defenders dealt with the longer balls well, they read the game well, they were composed in their build-up."

Southgate also hailed the contributions of Phillips and Sterling, who combined to match-winning effect just before the hour mark.

"Kalvin is player who is so understated and has had a fabulous start to his international career. I thought he was immense throughout, as they all were.

"I'm so pleased for Raheem. He's had this hex in tournaments, not being able to get the goal. I thought he was dangerous all day, right from the start.

"He's a good player and his goalscoring record suggests that we should have faith with him, especially in the last few years. I think he was motivated to show that.

"For him and everybody, we know we're going to need that depth with the attacking players. We'll need them through the tournament."

Next up for England is old foes Scotland, who they face at Wembley on Friday, but they will pose a different test than Croatia.

Southgate added: "This is a tough group. There are different sorts of challenges and Scotland and the Czechs are good sides. We're pleased with today, you want to get a good start because it takes some of the tension out of the preparations for the next game, but we need to get points to qualify, which is our first objective."

Sterling pleased to be off the tournament mark

England goalscorer Raheem Sterling to the BBC:

"I've always said if I play at Wembley in a major tournament, in my back garden, I'm scoring. It's great to finally do that.

"There's different reasons why I haven't scored for my club, but it's irrelevant now. I'm here with England, I'm enjoying my football and I'm happy to score.

"Have I justified my selection? I'm trying.

"It's great to get off to a win and now we have other games to look forward to. It's been a long season for me but I couldn't wait to get here and get started with England. With England, I knew it would be a positive one."

Phillips: Great feeling to assist

Image: Kalvin Phillips produced a superb display in England's midfield

England midfielder Kalvin Phillips to the BBC:

"It was very enjoyable. It was a great result and I'm very happy with my performance. But I know there are two group games left and we need performances like that, or even better.

"It's a nice feeling. Raheem said as soon as we finished celebrating, it's the first time I've found him with a pass since I've been with England so it's a nice feeling. It's a great feeling to get an assist and the three points.

"I'm just laid back, that's the kind of person I am. Regardless of what's being thrown at me, I try and take it in my path and relax as much as possible. If I didn't have the team or the coaching staff around me to make me feel like that, I don't think it would be possible.

"There's a lot of talk of me and Declan fighting for a position, but I think we play really well together. It's an honour to play with Declan and the rest of the team as well."

'Tournament debut a dream come true'

England defender Tyrone Mings to the BBC:

"It's a dream come true to play in a major tournament for England and I loved every second of it.

"It's probably the hottest game I've played in, but the team showed a lot of grit, determination and quality at times as well. We're over the moon with the start.

"They [Croatia] are a top team, as we found out before. It was up to us to repel their threat and deal with whatever they threw at us, but we also have quality to trouble teams as well.

"[The back four] felt composed and that we were in a good shape. A back four is only as good as the players in front of it, giving protection so full credit to the whole team."

Podcast: Southgate calls it right!

Gareth Southgate knows his England side best... who would have thought it?! Kate Burlaga is joined by Pete Smith, Jess Creighton and Gerard Brand to discuss England's victory over Croatia in their Euro 2020 opener at Wembley, as Raheem Sterling answers his critics with the only goal.

The panel discuss Southgate's surprise selections and controlling performance, and look ahead to England's next Group D game against Scotland on Friday. We also preview the Scots' first major tournament game in 23 years as they face Czech Republic on Monday.

Geraint Hughes also joins us to review Wales' hard-fought 1-1 draw in Switzerland in Group A on Saturday.


Analysis: One win but a big step for England

Sky Sports' Peter Smith at Wembley:

"The sun shone. The fans were back. And Raheem Sterling scored in his back yard. For the very first time England have won their opening game at a European Championships but this was more than just three points for Gareth Southgate's side.

"It was also a huge confidence boost to overcome the side which knocked them out of the World Cup semi-finals three years ago, a validation of the manager's unmovable faith in how he wants his side to approach this competition, and, given the qualifying criteria, a big step towards the knockout phase.

"Luka Modric talked about the 'arrogance' surrounding this England team and one wonders what the midfielder made of the home side effectively going on a lap of honour as Three Lions - "It's coming home!" - blared out at Wembley.

"But this was a special day for the players and the returning fans, brought into sharp perspective by the upsetting scenes in Denmark the day before. Christian Eriksen's scare is a reminder to treasure the special moments and England's players made sure they celebrated after Sterling's goal and at the full-time whistle with their families in front of the press box.

"They, like the majority of the 22,500 returning fans were intent on enjoying the moment. But there will be a quiet confidence from Southgate - whose selection decisions were rewarded - that this could just be the start."

What's next?

Both teams are next in action on June 18. England face a huge Home Nations derby against Scotland at Wembley (kick-off 8pm) while Croatia face the Czech Republic at Hampden Park (kick-off 5pm).

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