Kalvin Phillips stood out, but Harry Kane and Ante Rebic were sub-par as England eked out a narrow 1-0 win over Croatia on Sunday.
England made a strong start to the game, with Phil Foden smashing the upright just a couple of minutes in. However, once Croatia settled down and got into their shape, chance creation came at a premium, with the hosts leaving a lot to be desired with their end product as well. On the other end, Zlatko Dalic’s men hardly carried a threat, meaning the first half ended just as it had begun.
The Three Lions stepped up post the interval and got a fine break in the 57th minute when Kalvin Phillips picked out Raheem Sterling, who converted superbly from close range. Thereafter, England remained in control, but neither side could manage to trouble the goalkeepers, meaning the hosts grabbed all three points while Croatia now have an uphill task in front of them. We now run the rule over both the sets of players.
Jordan Pickford: 6/10
Easy as you like for Pickford, who barely broke a sweat apart from making a couple of regulation saves. Protected extremely well by the defenders.
Kyle Walker: 6/10
A bizarre decision by Gareth Southgate saw Walker being deployed at the right side of the England defence ahead of Kieran Trippier, who was the left-back. The decision did not pay off at all, with Walker struggling to make any sort of impact in the final third, just like Trippier on the left flank. Southgate surely has to return to the usual formula.
John Stones: 8/10
Alongside Tyrone Mings, Stones was a big reason why Pickford was largely untroubled in the England goal against Croatia. The 27-year-old won 5 duels while also making a crucial block apart from a couple of interceptions in what was a commanding display.
Tyrone Mings: 8/10
With Harry Maguire still not fit enough, Mings started at the heart of the England defence along with John Stones, and his aerial ability came to the fore quite well. Kept Rebic in check for the most part while making several crucial clearances and tackles. Job well done.
Kieran Trippier: 6/10
Despite the presence of Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw in the squad, Gareth Southgate inexplicably chose to play Kieran Trippier at left-back. The 30-year-old did suffer at times as a result but managed to remain solid enough for the most part. However, he hardly carried the kind of threat he usually does in the final third.
Kalvin Phillips: 9/10
The clear standout in the game, Phillips was a bundle of energy, often winning balls high up the pitch, which kept England on the front foot. At the same time, he was also extremely accurate with the ball at his feet, misplacing just two passes all game. Most importantly, Phillips played the pass that was converted by Raheem Sterling for the winner. Might have nailed down his spot.
Declan Rice: 7/10
Superb performance by Rice, who often dropped deep to act as a sweeper as well as initiate build-up plays. Provided a solid base in midfield, winning 3 duels while completing a couple of tackles as well. Only misplaced six passes while generally holding the fort superbly to ensure Luka Modric did not wreak havoc.
Phil Foden: 6/10
Preferred over Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, Foden appeared to be on the money right from the get-go and was unfortunate to have hit the woodwork with an early effort. However, after a bright start, the youngster tailed off significantly, with Josko Gvardiol keeping a lid on his output.
Mason Mount: 7/10
As expected, Mount was the creative outlet for England and always looked to pick out a teammate in pockets of spaces. Impressively, he completed 93 percent of his passes and what was also pleasing from Southgates’s perspective was the effort he put in when off the ball, winning 5 duels while completing a couple of tackles as well.
Raheem Sterling: 8/10
Sterling started a little slowly but even when he did not look at his best, it was clear that he was the best outlet for England with his ghosting runs. One such run did pay off as he latched on to a top-notched pass by Phillips to seal the deal for his side. Even played a key pass but there were some wasteful touches.
Harry Kane: 5/10
Quite a challenge for Kane, who was surprisingly anonymous for much of the game, although England dominated the proceedings for the most part. As a result, the England captain had to drop deep quite frequently, but that did not work either while his paltry 63 percent passing rate left a lot to be desired as well.
Marcus Rashford: 5/10
On for the final 20 minutes or so, Rashford hardly saw the ball, managing just 5 touches in his cameo.
Jude Bellingham: N/A
Making his maiden appearance in a major international competition, Bellingham helped see the game out late on.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin: N/A
A late introduction, Calvert-Lewin was on the pitch for a couple of minutes before full-time.
Dominik Livakovic: 6/10
Kept on his toes right from the early stages, Livakovic would have heaved a huge sigh of relief when Phil Foden’s effort hit the post before making a smart stop to deny Kalvin Phillips. Otherwise, there was not a whole lot that the Croatia goalkeeper had to do, and he could not have done anything to deny Raheem Sterling either.
Sime Vrsaljko: 7/10
A solid showing by Vrsaljko, who did well to keep a lid on Sterling’s output for the most part. Not to be blamed for the goal that the England winger scored, as he was already in a more central position. Going forward, the right-back carried some threat and played a couple of key passes as well. Held his own at the back, winning 8 duels while completing 4 tackles.
Duje Caleta-Car: 5/10
A top tackle on Sterling early on suggested that Caleta-Car was in his elements and he kept a check on his markers smartly for much of the proceedings. However, the two Croatia centre-backs switched off in the clutch moment, as Sterling scored the match-winning goal.
Domagoj Vida: 5/10
For large parts of the game, Vida did not have a whole lot to worry about, with Kane being uncharacteristically poor. However, the veteran defender switched off at the crucial moment, as Sterling slipped off of him before scoring the winner.
Josko Gvardiol: 6/10
Starting in place of Borna Barisic on the left side of the Croatia defence, Gvardiol had a tough task at hand against the irresistible Foden. However, after a nervy start to the game, the 19-year-old found his feet and defended admirably. Won each of the duels he contested while also making two clearances. Completed 90 percent of his attempted passes as well and was one of the better players for Croatia.
Luka Modric: 7/10
A game of hits and misses for Modric, who was shut out quite well by Phillips and Rice for the most part. However, the Croatia captain was also the only real source of creativity for his side, setting up a couple of key passes, only for the forwards to make a meal of them.
Marcelo Brozovic: 6/10
For much of the game, Brozovic was a solid customer in the middle of the park and worked hard to keep the ball away from Harry Kane. However, he has docked a point for his role in the build-up to the goal scored by Sterling, as Phillips got the better of him before setting up the winner.
Mateo Kovacic: 7/10
A bundle of energy, Kovacic worked hard to keep Croatia in the midfield battle at times while also being fairly accurate with his passes. Won as many as six duels while completing three tackles as well. Alas, the front-men were never really in the game.
Andrej Kramaric: 5/10
A difficult evening for Kramaric, who was inexplicably shunted out to the right flank. This took him out of the game for the most part, with the 29-year-old failing to aim a single shot at goal. Did complete most of his attempted passes, but he really needed to be more involved in the final third.
Ante Rebic: 5/10
Deployed as the central striker instead of Kramaric, Rebic was sub-par in his display, as he was left isolated for large parts of the game, while his output on the ball was abysmal (only 6/13 passes completed). Did muster up three shots but could never really trouble Pickford. Needs to be placed out wide against Czech Republic.
Ivan Perisic: 5/10
A game to forget for Perisic. Croatia’s senior statesman just could not manage to become a factor in the game. The 32-year-old was wasteful with some of his touches as well, losing possession 10 times. Managed just the one shot in the game, but did put in the hard yards to support Gvardiol.
Nikola Vlasic: 5/10
Sent on in place of Brozovic, Vlasic’s introduction was meant to enable Croatia to push forward with more purpose, which is exactly what the Vatreni did not do. Vlasic himself flitted in and out of the game, which contributed to Croatia’s poor output.
Josip Brekalo: 5/10
On for Kramaric, Brekalo failed to make any sort of impact, with Croatia struggling to ebb away at England.
Bruno Petkovic: N/A
On for Rebic, hardly got a touch on the ball, with England not slipping up one bit.
Mario Pasalic: N/A
A late introduction in place of Kovacic, Pasalic barely had any time to make an impact, with England in control.