Alan Shearer: ‘Kalvin Phillips has surely booked his place against Scotland with his performance against Croatia.’
Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering England throughout Euro 2020
Our record in the opening games of major tournaments means any England victory should be celebrated, and even more so when you consider all the factors involved – the pressure of playing at Wembley, the heat, the decisions Gareth [Southgate] had to make in terms of team selection, to win the first game of a European Championship at the tenth time of asking, that’s something worth celebrating.
And overall I was impressed with the performance, England started the game strongly, they pressed Croatia, didn’t allow them to dominate the midfield as they did the in the World Cup semi-final three years ago, and that early intensity that they showed, that set out their intentions, and gave them the platform to get the result they did.
There were some huge individual performances from England players. Kalvin Phillips was my man of the match, playing in a more advanced role than we might have expected, rather than sitting deeper alongside Declan Rice, and of course he played a huge part in creating England’s winner. It was a performance that may well have ended any discussion over Jordan Henderson starting against Scotland, as I can’t see Kalvin being left out of that game now.
Gareth Southgate got big line-up calls right
Gareth also made a big call in starting with Raheem Sterling, and after the quiet spell Raheem has had for Manchester City, that decision paid off as well. He’s never let Gareth down in an England shirt, and the England manager showed his loyalty by sticking with him.
Kieran Trippier’s selection at left-back was another big call. It was a selection that both did and didn’t surprise me. Surprising yes, when you consider Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell were both available and have had strong seasons for their clubs, and Kieran hadn’t played for Atletico Madrid at left-back this season, but no it didn’t surprise me as it was another example of Gareth’s loyalty in going with players who have delivered for him before.
And as with Raheem’s selection, it paid off, and it shows that Gareth is able to ignore all the noise around this England side, and go with what he and his coaching staff believe is right, and after all, they’re the ones who know these players best, they see them in training every day, they are the best placed to make the big calls.
Staying at Wembley is important
The win puts us in a great position to win the group now, and that would be so important, as it would keep us at Wembley for the last 16 match. Being at Wembley, it was so great to see and hear those England fans in the stadium, there really is nothing like that, I felt it as a player, and I had that sense again on Sunday, they can be a factor in England’s progress in this tournament.
The only note of caution I would sound is that this wasn’t the Croatia side of 2018, I thought they lacked a real threat up front, and bigger tests will await England, but in tournament football it’s all about building momentum, and yes, while there is room to improve – it’s not just about stopping the opposition playing, we need to create more clear cut chances – England got the victory, and after the hard time that the country has gone through in the last 15 months or so, football’s power to bring people together, to give us a lift, that’s what matters, and that’s definitely worth shouting about.