England 1-0 Croatia

June 13th, 2021 | Football

Please note: The football articles that feature on this site are being written by Jack Dixon as part of his work experience. He is a teenager and looking for work experience within the football industry. He is currently studying for his media and art A-levels.

Professional. That’s the word I’d use to describe that opening match for England. A game that had the potential to cause problems for the three lions, but from minute one, you could see the determination to get off to a good start in the tournament. High energy and pressing was evident for the first twenty minutes or so before the Wembley sun caused the players to tire. But when they tired, they kept their concentration and would patiently wait for Croatia to make a slightly sloppy pass or take a heavy touch. The two defensive-midfield players, Declan Rice and Kalvin Philips, were key in this. Looking to intercept and win the ball whenever the opportunity to do so materialised.

With the ball England looked to be positive in their 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 shape and often pushed Kalvin Philips forward to support Mason Mount in the attacking areas. The wide players Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden were always looking to cut inside onto their stronger foot to create a chance or score themselves, with Phil Foden hitting the post in the early stages of the game and Raheem Sterling driving inside at the Croatian backline. Harry Kane kept dropping deep to get involved in the game. I didn’t see much point in this as he does his best work in the box, not outside of it. The full-backs were relatively quiet with Kieran Trippier making a few advancements forwards down the left in the first half, and Kyle Walker being wasteful and unproductive with the ball. England clearly had a game plan to get runners in behind the Croatian defence with passes over the top from mostly Tyrone Mings on Kieran Trippier, the left side of the England defence. Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Kalvin Philips all did this, but to little effect.

The first half was even, but England came closest to scoring with Foden’s effort coming back off the post and a Kalvin Philips volley was well-saved, Kieran Trippier also had a free-kick well blocked by the jumping Perisic.

England were decent, but needed more movement in the final third, something that was clearly improved with the only goal of the game. Raheem Sterling, the left-winger, saw some space in the centre of the Croatia defence and made a run infield, fed by a brilliantly weighted pass by the impressive Philips, before making good contact on the ball and firing England ahead.

Defensively England were sound. Jordan Pickford looked assured throughout, showed good distribution, but had little to do in terms of saves to make. Kyle Walker struggled in possession but was fine without it, coping well defensively when necessary. Kieran Trippier looked composed on the ball and put in a good shift playing slightly out of position at left-back. The centre-back pairing of John Stones and Tyrone Mings deserves a lot of praise. Stones isn’t always the most convincing and Tyrone Mings had no tournament experience before today, but they both played well, especially Tyrone Mings. Mings read the game exceptionally well and defended the channels well. He brought a bit of balance to the pairing, being left-footed and Stones being right-footed. Mings also has a good recovery pace and fully deserves praise for his performance. Also a mention to Declan Rice and Kalvin Philips, who shielded that backline really well and contained Croatia’s impressive midfield.

Player Ratings: Pickford (6), Trippier (6), Mings (7), Stones (6), Walker (5), Rice (7), Philips (8), Sterling (6), Mount (6), Foden (6), Harry Kane (5).

My MOTM: Kalvin Philips

For a player with no tournament experience, what a performance. To not only contain, but also drive through that Croatian midfield is impressive. He was composed on the ball throughout the game, shown by his perfect timing and weight of pass to Raheem Sterling for the goal. He showed great stamina by pressing and constantly going to tackle the opposition, not allowing them to settle on the ball. Knowing what the first-choice midfield is and knowing they can play well together is important. He partnered Rice well in midfield and I think if they can contain and play through that Croatia midfield, they can do so against any team. That performance today shows he can play at this level and is, despite some fans opinions, more than good enough to be an England international.