England vs Croatia – Euro 2020 Preview
England meet Croatia in a rematch of the World Cup semi-final that saw Croatia break English hearts in extra time. England’s route to the euro’s was pretty simple with the only mistake coming when they lost 2-1 to Czech Republic. Coming here on a winning run of 6 games, many people feel this is England’s best group of players, certainly from an attacking perspective in quite a while. Recent performances have been far from impressive, with two 1-0 wins against Austria and Romania being pretty dull affairs where England failed to sparkle. Manager Gareth Southgate was part of the England squad who reached the semi-finals of Euro 1996, but it was his missed penalty against Germany which saw them eliminated, so he will be desperate to go all the way here to exercise his own personal demons, as well as deliver a first major tournament win since England won the world cup in 1966.
Croatia have been in a period of transition since their runner up finish at the last world cup. Big names like Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic have both retired and they now have some new names who look for international glory. Since qualifying for this tournament Croatia have been in pretty poor form, having played 14 games, winning just 5, drawing 2 and losing 7. They endured a torrid nations league campaign losing 5 of their 6 games played and conceding more goals than anyone else in the competition. They start this tournament as pretty big priced outsiders with many people feeling this team lacks what it takes to go deep at a major international competition.
There is plenty of motivation for England in this game as they play their world cup conquerors, at Wembley in front of a home crowd. England have allot of attacking talent in their squad and many fans have been frustrated that the style of play they choose to adopt still seems to be that of quite a negative defensive team, but will so much attacking talent and a deadly finisher in Harry Kane, its easy to see why so many people feel this is England’s best chance of lifting an international major in quite some time. I see this being quite a slow methodical game, both sides will look to control possession for long periods and capitalise from set pieces. I fancy England to get the win. Croatia have been pretty shocking in some recent games, and whilst England have been far from impressive themselves, they have still found a way to get the win. Both sides will see this as their toughest group game in terms of a footballing challenge (as many would argue England’s group game vs Scotland will present a much different and more intense challenge), so they both know that a win here puts them in the driving position in the group. I see England winning by a goal or two in a low scoring and slow game. Harry Kane finished top scorer of all the teams in the qualifying stage, and its likely he finds the net as England win 1-0 or 2-0.