England’s journey to Euro 2020 glory begins on Sunday for England as they resume hostilities with Croatia at Wembley Stadium three years after the Checkered Ones thwarted their World Cup dreams.
Some are already tipping Gareth Southgate’s harvest to make history and make it through to the tournament’s finale, but Croatia’s visit represents an ordeal in front of 22,500 optimistic fans.
Free kick by Kieran Trippier. The inexplicable miss of Harry Kane. The winner of Mario Mandzukic. The demons of the 2018 World Cup semifinals still linger in the minds of these England players, several of whom stepped onto the pitch for that fateful night in Moscow.
Despite already taking their revenge on Croatia in the inaugural Nations League campaign, Southgate’s men are under immense pressure to replicate that feat in the English capital as they strive to start the summer in the most perfect way imaginable.
An almost flawless qualifying period meant that England’s place in the Euro 2020 final was never in doubt, and the Three Lions enter the weekend with a six-game winning streak in all competitions, but their two recent victories friendly were not all. So inspiring.
Back-to-back clean sheets against Austria and Romania were greeted with open arms, but only a Bukayo Saka winner could take England over the line against the former, while Marcus Rashford was the only man who could make the net go. moved from 12 yards in a 1-0 win over Romania.
However, traditionally, the first 90 minutes of the European Championship have ended in calamity for England. While they are undefeated in all their Wembley appearances in a major tournament, they have never won their first Euro Cup game in nine attempts, and Sunday would be as good a time as ever to break that alarming duck.
The joy of destroying England’s chances at the World Cup in 2018 was short-lived for Croatia as they fell victim to France’s superiority in the final, and Zlatko Dalic has failed to inspire his team to maintain that magnificent streak in the last 12 months.
The Checkered Ones experienced some wobbles in qualifying for Euro 2020, but they finally made it, and the less said about their most recent Nations League campaign the better, although they faced stiff opposition in France, Portugal and Sweden.
Croatia was never expected to beat Belgium in their last friendly on June 6, where Romelu Lukaku’s goal gave the world’s top-ranked nation a 1-0 victory, but their 1-1 draw with Armenia a few days earlier. certainly raised some. more eyebrows.
However, history slightly favors the visitors ahead of their trip to Wembley, as while England can’t seem to get over the line in their first Euro game, Croatia have triumphed in four of their last five matches as they seek. to channel the spirits of the 2018 World Cup luminaries.
As mentioned, England beat Croatia 2-1 in the 2018-19 Nations League four months after their World Cup exit, with a goalless draw between those two matches, and the last time these two countries met. In the group stage of the European Championship it was the Three Lions prevailing 4-2 in 2004.