England kick off their eagerly awaited Euro 2020 campaign on Sunday as Gareth Southgate’s men face possibly their trickiest group stage assignment against Croatia.
It’s difficult not to get excited about the Three Lions’ chances this summer given the stellar squad at Southgate’s disposal and the fact the latter stages will all be played at Wembley Stadium, though the team did their best to taper expectations with two underwhelming performances in their warm-up games.
England scraped past both Austria and Romania – with both games finishing 1-0 – though on the bright side they’ve now won all of their last six outings with just one goal conceded.
Meanwhile, Croatia endured an even worse week’s preparation to Euro 2020 as they were beaten by
Belgium and then failed to beat Armenia, though England will know they can’t afford to take Zlatko Dalic’s side lightly.
Here’s 90min’s preview of the upcoming clash…
When is kick-off? Sunday 13 June, 14:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Wembley Stadium, London
What TV channel is it on? BBC One
Who is the referee? Daniele Orsato
Who’s on VAR duty? Massimiliano Irrati
Southgate was probably aware he’d be without Harry Maguire for the opening game of the tournament when he selected him in his 26-man squad. The Manchester United man is still attempting to regain fitness after picking up an ankle injury little over a month ago and isn’t expected to feature on Sunday.
Bukayo Saka is also a doubt due to a hip problem, but apart from the aforementioned pair England have no injury worries ahead of the match, with Jordan Henderson seemingly back to full fitness.
Southgate’s biggest selection dilemma is likely to be who plays at centre-back, with Luke Shaw rumoured to be in contention to play on the left of a back three meaning Ben Chilwell could start at left wing-back.
Croatia have problems of their own in central defence with former Liverpool man Dejan Lovren struggling with an injury. The veteran centre-back isn’t expected to recover in time for the Wembley clash and so Duje Caleta-Car is likely partner Domagoj Vida at the heart of the backline.
Dalic fielded a strong side in Croatia’s final warm-up game against Belgium and so that could be a hint as to how his side will line up against England. If that is the case, Dinamo Zagreb frontman Bruno Petkovic will lead the line.
If you haven’t heard how good Phil Foden is, it’s hard to know where you’ve really been. The Manchester City star is one of the best young prospects in world football, and could enjoy a stellar summer with England. He might not start here, but he’ll generate excitement when he comes on.
England: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Shaw; Trippier, Rice, Phillips, Chilwell; Mount, Kane, Sterling
Croatia: Livakovic; Vrsaljko, Vida, Caleta-Car, Barisic; Brozovic, Kovacic; Rebic, Modric, Perisic; Petkovic
You know the drill by now; we spend months – well, it’s actually been years this time – banging on about how good a squad England have and how we’re going to finally win another international tournament, then the first game arrives and we’re absolutely rubbish.
We’ve seen it all before. However, Southgate really does seem to be on to something with this group of players and maybe they’ll shock us all and blow away Croatia – good old English optimism, eh?
Croatia are no mugs and they qualified for Euro 2020 comfortably enough without doing anything spectacular. This one will definitely be a tough game and if you offered Southgate a point now he would probably take it – sorry, but it’s true.
Prediction: England 1-1 Croatia