Euro 2020: England coach Gareth Southgate reveals secret behind historic win against Croatia; Check- England manager Gareth Southgate was a relieved man on Sunday after his much-debated team selection paid off in a Euro 2020 opening win against Croatia at a jubilant Wembley.
“It feels great to have been able to send the fans home happy and to have fans up and down the country happy, that’s very special,” he said after a 1-0 victory over the side that denied England a World Cup final place in 2018.
“I was really pleased with the way we settled so quickly. Big occasion, sweltering hot day, every reason to look nervous at the start, but we didn’t. We were the bigger threat throughout.”
With a wide array of talent at his disposal, Southgate kept faith with striker Raheem Sterling despite his below-par form in the Premier League and included midfielder Kalvin Phillips.
That disappointed fans who had wanted to see Marcus Rashford up front and Jack Grealish in midfield.
But Phillips and Sterling were England’s outstanding players, the former providing a perfect through ball for Sterling to slot home in the 61st minute.
“He’s been a reliable performer for us for a long period of time,” Southgate said of Sterling, who scored his first goal at a major tournament for England a stone’s throw from where he grew up.
“You can’t have all the burden on Harry (Kane)’s shoulders. I thought he looked a threat all day. His work without the ball was phenomenal, positionally, and the desire to track and stop them advancing.”
Southgate said he had tracked Phillips closely in the second-tier Championship prior to his first season in the Premier League with Leeds United.
“All the attributes were there: the athleticism, the range of passing, the desire. He’s high performance, low maintenance, we like that,” he said. “Calvin is a fabulous boy to work with, so unassuming, The contribution for the goal summed his day up really.”
Though Kane had a subdued day, Southgate was not concerned.
“He led the line really well. It was a game where he had to take a lot of physical buffeting. There are days where the chances will fall to him. He was really tightly marked and crowded out . They know what a threat he is, he brings so much more to our team than just the goals.”
Southgate said he would let his players enjoy the evening before focusing on the next Wembley game against Scotland.
“It’s for everybody else to get excited and throw their beer around and do whatever they want. It’s brilliant to give that joy to people. But for us, it’s onto the next and preparing for a really tough game on Friday,” he said.