A second-half goal by Raheem Sterling secured a narrow victory for England at Wembley to gain a measure of revenge for their defeat to Croatia in 2018 World Cup.
Remarkably, it was the first ever opening group win for the Three Lions in this tournament.
The World Cup finalists, Croatia, failed to really show their capabilities. Other than a period in the second-half, they never really tested the home defence.
The talking point before the game was regarding the team selection. Gareth Southgate decided to pick Kieran Trippier at left-back, instead of the more natural options he had.
Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice were both in midfield, and Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish left on the bench. Croatia had more of a settled selection with Duje Caleta-Car starting in place of Dejan Lovren.
England were the ones to begin the stronger in front of their home fans. Raheem Sterling was at the heart of a breakaway, before feeding his Manchester City team-mate Phil Foden.
He steadied himself before angling a shot. He was unlucky to see it hit a post and come back out. Sterling was then denied by a last-ditch block by Caleta-Car. Phillips also tested Dominik Livakovic after a corner.
The Croats were struggling to find much time on the ball as the English midfielder buzzed around them. An Ivan Perisic snapshot that went wide was their first real attempt. They did start to come more into the game as the half developed.
The promptings of Mateo Kovacic and Luka Modric were key to this. England were now straining to reclaim their earlier form.
The away side began the second-half by pressing higher up the pitch. Modric forced Jordan Pickford into a save down to his near post as the game remained tight. Out of the blue, England grabbed the lead.
Phillips won the ball in midfield and played a clever ball into the path of Sterling. He held off the challenges to finish low under Livakovic.
Harry Kane could have made it at the back-post before he was denied by a late tackle from Caleta-Car. Mount then struck a free-kick just over the bar as the tempo switched back to England.
They begun to drop deeper as the half went on. Croatia saw more and more of the ball as a result but were unable to truly test Pickford. Modric attempted to get them back with a clipped volley to the back post.
Marcelo Brozovic was unable to keep his effort down though. Walker then managed to hold off Perisic before he could connect to a ball in the six-yard area.
Sterling had a chance to add to his and England’s lead when the ball came out to him from a Mings knock-down. He never looked comfortable as it went over the bar.
Croatia tried to respond as they changed their system. They failed to really test Pickford properly though. A strong catch from the ‘keeper ahead from Bruno Petkovic showed his confidence.
The delight was clear to see upon the final whistle. A good start to the group, but challenges remain. They next play Scotland at Wembley next Friday while Croatia play Czech Republic in Glasgow the same evening.
England: Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Tyrone Mings, Kieran Trippier; Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Phil Foden (Marcus Rashford 71), Raheem Sterling (Dominic Calvert-Lewin 91), Harry Kane (Jude Bellingham 78), Mason Mount.
Subs not used: Luke Shaw, Jack Grealish, Jordan Henderson, Conor Coady, Ben White, Sam Johnstone, Reece James, Bukayo Saka
Booked: Phil Foden (64)
Croatia: Dominik Livakovic; Sime Vrsaljko, Domogoj Vida, Duje Caleta-Car, Josko Gvardiol, Luka Modric; Marcelo Brozovic (Nikola Vlasic 70), Mateo Kovacic, Andrej Kramaric (Josip Brekalo 70); Ante Rebic (Bruno Petkovic 78), Ivan Perisic.
Subs not used: Lovre Kalinic, Ante Budimir, Mario Pasilic, Mile Skoric, Milan Badelj, Josip Juranovic, Simon Sluga, Domogoj Bradaric, Luka Ivanusec
Booked: Duje Caleta-Car (42), Mateo Kovacic (48), Marcelo Brozovic (67),
Referee: Daniele Orsato
extratime.com Player of the Match: Kalvin Phillips
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