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England vs Croatia reaction: 5 big talking points from the Three Lions' Euro 2020 opener

raheem Sterling, England vs Croatia Euro 2020
(Image credit: Getty Images)

England started off their Euro 2020 campaign with a 1-0 win over Croatia, thanks to a goal from Raheem Sterling MBE.

Here's FourFourTwo's five big talking points from the victory.

Squad rotation incoming

Let’s take a quick look at who didn’t start today: Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Reece James were on the bench, while Ben Chilwell and Jadon Sancho weren’t even among the substitutes. Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson aren’t yet fully fit.

Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips anchored the side well as a double pivot in the middle, but Croatia are – on paper at least, the strongest of England’s group opponents – so both won’t be required for every game.

What this tells us is that we should see squad rotation rather than a settled starting line-up. Expect to see something very different against Scotland.

NOW READ England Euro 2020 squad: Full team profile

Undroppable Phillips?

Kalvin Phillips might have been the surprise selection, had Gareth Southgate not have opted for Kieran Trippier at left-back - but the Leeds United midfielder was exceptional in the centre of the park for England.

Phillips’ press, his energy and his defensive work was exemplary - as was his ball for the Sterling winner - and it typified the way that Marcelo Bielsa instructs Phillips to play at club level. 

Could this man be the surprise key figure in midfield for England this summer? Perhaps - he simply has to start against Scotland, either way.

See more

Mason Mount is key

He’s been questioned, he’s been underrated and he’s been called a teacher’s pet

But Mason Mount rose to the occasion as a No.10 behind Harry Kane. It wasn’t just the passing and dynamism that Mount offered to the team, though. 

The Chelsea man led the press for England and was superb off the ball to offer support to both wingers - especially Sterling, who he interlinked with nicely.

LONG READ Mason Mount: The rapid rise of Chelsea and England's midfield star, as told by Jody Morris 

Getting Kane in the game more

A disappointing game for Harry Kane - we can’t have it all - as the England captain was barely involved in the better play from England’s forwards. The most we saw of him on camera was when he clattered his ribs into the post.

We all thought Kane had an important role to play in dropping deeper to connect play but with Mount offering that, perhaps Gareth Southgate has to rethink some of the positions that the striker takes up. Still, it’s only when he gets onto the end of a ball that you begin to notice him…

Unconvincing left-back experiment

Kieran Trippier has only played four games at left-back previous to this game. It’s understandable that Gareth Southgate should want to use as many of his impressive right-backs as possible, but actual left-backs Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw aren’t bad either.

Kyle Walker was underwhelming at right-back. Use the depth of that position to keep the pressure on for the starting spot, rather than work against the players’ strength.

No pyjama top for Southgate

He wore a proper suit. Thank god for that.

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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT