The first Euro 2020 game is just around the corner as our valued roster of experts gave their opinion on England’s opener against Croatia on Sunday.
Do you agree? Continue reading…
Croatia kicked England out of the 2018 World Cup after winning the extra time for Mario Mandzukic
PETER CROUCH: 2-1 against England
THE first game of a tournament should be simple: get out there, do what you did in your prep, and move forward with confidence.
Really, however, the first game is unlike any you’ve ever played. It’s awful. The tension causes you to do things that you normally would never do, the nerves are such that the experience of winning revolves around relief rather than exhilaration.
I know how the guys Gareth Southgate chooses to serve will feel. It’s been 15 years since I played Paraguay at the 2006 World Cup and I can still remember the concerns about that game in Frankfurt.
Paraguay? No disrespect to them, but with the team we had it should have been easy. I knew it would be anything but that from the moment before kick-off when we got into a mess. Some of us had arguments with our clubs, but we never did that with England.
Then why did we do it? I would say because we all knew this was no ordinary game. When you play for England in a tournament you know wherever in the world the country left home. Everyone is watching, everyone has an opinion. It’s pressure like no other.
The players will struggle with nerves tomorrow and they will also have to deal with terrible opponents who seem to give us trouble over and over again.
Whenever Croatia appears on the horizon, they remind me of the best moment I had in an England shirt – and the worst. The infamous game in November 2007, when they prevented us from going to Euro 2008, should have looked back with unadulterated joy.
I scored in the 65th minute. David Beckham hissed a ball into the box and I grabbed it and remembered the sound of my shot being fired. From 2-0 to 2-2, I would be the man who sent us to a major tournament. Twelve minutes later, Mladen met Petric and we were out.
Losing to England on the big stage makes you sick, but all in all, that’s not something that this team will see tomorrow. Croatia is a great team and Luka Modric, my old buddy, is showing no signs of age. His mastery is something else.
But I look at our players and see young men who want the ball and want to assert themselves in the game. You are ready to shine. Be inconsiderate guys. Don’t worry about your nerves.
CHRIS SUTTON: 2-1 for England
Before the 2018 World Cup, all eleven players who played for England’s opening game against Tunisia started at least one of the two warm-up games. Such a preparation was not possible this time.
Against Romania and Austria, there were no players from Chelsea or Manchester City in the squad due to their involvement in the Champions League final. Representatives of these clubs could make up half of the field players against Croatia tomorrow.
So it’s hard to say how much we should put into these test victories against Romania and Austria.
Chris Sutton predicts Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Declan Rice to start against Croatia on Sunday
But Gareth Southgate used a back four in both games and that’s the way to go against Croatia too. I think it suits this English team better than the back three that is being discussed. It gives them a greater balance and Southgate’s team would still be able to control the game the way he wants it to.
Then there would be three in midfield, most likely Declan Rice with Mason Mount and Phil Foden on either side, and three in attack. Harry Kane opened his 2018 World Cup account with two goals against Tunisia in a 2-1 win. Again please, Kane and Co.
JAMIE REDKNAPP: 1-1 draw
There are shades of Euro ’96 here and England can start with a 1-1 draw and then move into a crucial second group match against Scotland at Wembley.
A draw wouldn’t be the worst result for Gareth Southgate. England and Croatia will be nervous. That is natural, so I expect a cautious opening. Croatia is a good site so this shouldn’t be viewed as a gimmick. A tie at the beginning of course makes the group matches against Scotland and the Czech Republic decisive. There will be pressure on England’s players to perform, but they can handle it.
Luckily we did in 1996 when Paul Gascoigne made Wembley his personal playground. England can also boost this EM with a point and then collect the rest that is necessary to reach the knockout round.
England started Euro ’96 with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland at Wembley
STEPH HOUGHTON: 2-0 against England
I see a victory for England to get us on a plane. It will be a close game and Croatia will make it difficult.
England have to be patient but once they score the first goal Croatia has to come out of it and with our pace, energy and threat of attack we can hit them on the counterattack.
We have the players to unlock a defense. Mason Mount is one of my players to watch for the tournament and he could be the key to making England do that.