5 things we learned from England’s victory over Croatia in Euro 2020 opener

England v Croatia – UEFA Euro 2020 – Group D – Wembley Stadium (PA Wire)
16:23pm, Sun 13 Jun 2021
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Raheem Sterling’s second-half goal assured England of victory over Croatia in their Euro 2020 Group D opener.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the major issues of note following Sunday’s 1-0 success at Wembley.

England finally start Euros with a bang

Britain England Croatia Euro 2020 Soccer (AP)

This was England’s 10th opening match at a European Championship and the first time they have managed to win.

They previous drew five and lost four but, courtesy of Sterling’s goal, the Three Lions started Euro 2020 with three points.

Given the rankings of the other nations in Group D, this should be England’s toughest test and to come out of it with the victory will give manager Gareth Southgate and his players hope moving forward.

Sterling’s goal-den

England v Croatia – UEFA Euro 2020 – Group D – Wembley Stadium (PA Wire)

On an afternoon of firsts, Sterling’s goal was his first at a major tournament finals in what was his 13th appearance across World Cup and European Championship games.

The Manchester City forward has been in fine form for England in recent times but endured a difficult end to the season.

Southgate kept faith in the 26-year-old despite an array of attacking options and saw that repaid in the 57th minute when he scored the only goal of the contest.

Knee still getting jeered

England v Croatia – UEFA Euro 2020 – Group D – Wembley Stadium (PA Wire)

It was not all joy and light for England as the taking of the knee before kick-off was once again booed by a minority of fans inside Wembley.

Southgate and his players have committed to continuing the anti-racism gesture despite some supporters jeering their stance.

Unlike the two warm-up games last week, however, the groundswell of applause and cheering for the knee was far more prominent.

Phillips marches on

Having only made his England and Premier League debuts last year, Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips impressed enough to earn a place in midfield for the Euro 2020 opener.

Not only that but he was arguably the best player on the pitch, setting up Sterling’s goal and hardly putting a foot wrong to outshine the likes of Luka Modric and Phil Foden.

With Jordan Henderson’s fitness still a concern, the form of Phillips could be key for England in the coming games.

Teenage kicks

Britain England Croatia Euro 2020 Soccer (AP)

Jude Bellingham may have only made an eight-minute cameo towards the end of the game but in doing so he made European Championship history.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who does not turn 18 until June 29, replaced captain Harry Kane late on and in doing so became the youngest player to ever feature in the competition.

With the game finely poised, it shows just how much trust Southgate has in the teenager.

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