ENJOYED IT: Manager and players react to England’s win over Croatia
Gareth Southgate and his players react to England’s win over Croatia with Kalvin Phillips describing the game as ‘very enjoyable’.
England got their Euro 2020 campaign off to a flyer with a deserved 1-0 victory over 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia at Wembley.
On paper, it looked like the toughest game in their group but England passed the test with ease as Raheem Sterling bagged the only goal, latching onto a pass from Phillips early in the second half and finishing past Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
Phillips - ‘Very enjoyable’
Phillips was a surprise pick by Southgate but was hugely impressive in midfield with his high pressing and his composure on the ball.
The Leeds United man told BBC Sport, “I’m just laid back, it’s the kind of person I am. Regardless of what is being thrown at me I take it in my path and try to relax as much as possible,” he told the BBC. “If I didn’t have the team and coaching staff around me, it wouldn’t be possible.”
“It was very enjoyable, it was very warm and took its toll towards the end of the game. I’m very happy with my performance but there are two more group games left.”
Southgate - ‘Very special’
Picking Phillips instead of the experienced Jordan Henderson or the young talent Jude Bellingham was just one of many surprise calls by manager Gareth Southgate. He also chose to play Kieran Trippier, who plays right-back at club level, at left-back instead of the naturally left-footed Luke Shaw or Ben Chilwell.
There was also debate about whether the goal scorer Sterling should start as he had a disappointing end to the domestic campaign with Manchester City. Nevertheless, Southgate chose to leave the more in-form Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford on the bench whilst Jadon Sancho didn’t even make the match squad.
Speaking after the 1-0 win had justified his selections, Southgate said, “It feels great to have been able to send the fans home happy and to have fans up and down the country happy. That’s very special. In terms of the game, I was really pleased with the way we settled so quickly.
“Some young players, some inexperienced international players, a big occasion – not only a tough opponent but a big occasion, a sweltering hot day. Every reason to potentially look nervous at the start but they didn’t. With and without the ball they were composed, carried out what we wanted to do in terms of pressing brilliantly.
“Although it was always going to be a game of few clear chances, I thought we looked the bigger threat throughout, really.”
Kane - ‘We have fantastic players’
Captain Harry Kane was another player to react to England’s win over Croatia. He said, “We have got fantastic players on the ball and fantastic players in behind, you saw that with Raheem’s goal. We had a couple of runners and he got in and finished nicely.
“(It is) a great start, we know we have got a long way to go still but you always want to start with a win. It is a great building block for the rest of the tournament.”
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