England

6 things we learned from England's win over Croatia

Tom Gott
England secured a crucial 1-0 win over Croatia
England secured a crucial 1-0 win over Croatia / Robin Jones/Getty Images
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For the first time in the history of the European Championships, England have actually won their first match. It took ten tries, but they've finally done it.

Raheem Sterling popped up with a smart finish to secure a 1-0 victory over Croatia on Sunday, exacting a bit of revenge for the 2018 World Cup semi-final and getting England off to the best possible start this summer.

Here are six things we learned from the game.


1. Tyrone Mings deserves his spot

Tyrone Mings
Mings had an excellent game / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Heading into the game, Harry Maguire and John Stones were the only defenders not facing intense questions over their spot in the squad, but we can safely add Tyrone Mings to the list of untouchables.

The Aston Villa man was the complete package against Croatia. He won everything in the air and on the ground, was solid both in the tackle and with his passing, and he even flashed some impressive pace for a 6'5 defender.

Mings was England's best defender by a long way, and he shouldn't face questions over his ability anymore.

2. Harry Kane is not untouchable

Harry Kane
Kane had a very quiet game / Robin Jones/Getty Images

Seeing Harry Kane brought off with eight minutes to go was one of the biggest surprises of the game. The Tottenham talisman and team captain is usually seen as untouchable, but perhaps that's not the case anymore.

Kane was nowhere near his best against Croatia, and while his movement deserves plenty of credit - his run opened the space for Sterling to net the winner - it wasn't good enough from a man who is in this team to score a boatload of goals.

Taking Kane off late on wasn't exactly an emphatic message from manager Gareth Southgate, but it was a warning to the Spurs man that there are other strikers in this squad gunning for his spot.

3. Kalvin Phillips could be a star

Kalvin Phillips
Phillips was the best player on the pitch / Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Kalvin Phillips was the best player on the pitch by an absolute country mile. Deployed in a more advanced role than we normally see him for Leeds, the midfielder was on one.

His inclusion in the starting lineup was ridiculed on social media, but Phillips quickly changed that narrative. He dominated at both ends of the field and made the decisive pass for Sterling's goal. England would not have won the game without him.

With a performance like that, Phillips now looks like one of the first names on the team sheet.

4. Jadon Sancho is in trouble

Jadon Sancho
Sancho was not involved at all / Visionhaus/Getty Images

The man most wanted to start instead of Sterling, Jadon Sancho, didn't even make the 23-man squad for the game. Yikes.

While Southgate's inclusion of two goalkeepers on the bench was enforced by the rules, not being able to find a spot for a £100m winger who just bagged 16 goals and 20 assists in 38 games for Dortmund is a little wild.

It felt like a major message from Southgate, who clearly wants more from Sancho in an England shirt. Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka were all ahead of him on the bench, so there's a long road back for Sancho.

5. Raheem Sterling knows what he's doing in an England shirt

Raheem Sterling
Sterling has had a tough season / Robin Jones/Getty Images

While Sancho is yet to figure out how to carry his club form over to the international scene, Sterling has been doing the complete opposite.

His poor form at City was thrown out the window here as Sterling was easily England's scariest forward. He was heavily involved from start to finish and took his goal with the composure that he has been lacking at the Etihad this year.

That's now 11 goals and ten assists in his last 15 games for England, which is all the logic you need behind Southgate's decision to start Sterling over Sancho here.

6. Gareth Southgate might know what he is doing

Gareth Southgate
Southgate got the big decisions right / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Southgate gets a lot of stick for some questionable decisions, and while a lot of that is merited, he silenced his critics with a masterclass here.

Fans didn't want Mings, but the centre-back excelled. Nobody wanted Phillips, and he went full man-of-the-match mode. Sterling was supposed to be washed up but Southgate made him England's most dangerous forward.

The boss took some risky decisions, and they paid off. Fair play.


For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

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