After two days of actions in the European Championships, it was finally England’s turn to kick-off their tournament. In the absence of Harry Maguire, Aston Villa vice-captain Tyrone Mings was given the nod to partner John Stone at Wembley. Fan favorite Jack Grealish was not to be so lucky on Sunday.
Jordan Pickford: 6/10
Manager Gareth Southgate opted to select the same goalkeeper he trusted in England’s last major tournament in 2018 ahead of counterparts Dean Henderson and Sam Johnstone. In return, Pickford endured an afternoon in the sun, filled with relative ease. Previous World Cup finalists Croatia failed to provide a high substance of threat on the England goal with Pickford having to make a mere two saves.
It was apparent that the England goalkeeper’s task on the ball was to remove any danger without hesitation as 78% of his attempted passes were long balls. Of the 21 attempted long balls, only six were successful for the Sunderland academy graduate; something he will be keen on rectifying before facing Scotland later in the week.
Kyle Walker: 5/10
The Manchester City defender was one of four available right-backs to be selected for the spot, being preferred over Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold as Southgate relied on an experienced head amongst a relatively young squad. Defensively, the full-back failed to compete, often losing Croatian talisman Ivan Perišić in dangerous areas of the pitch. Walker lost possession fourteen times throughout the ninety minutes of play and completed zero of his two attempted crosses as he lacked the necessary attacking spark.
Tyrone Mings: 7/10
Before the game, pundits were quick to point out the Aston Villa centre-back as a potential weak spot due to his lack of experience in the Champions League and international major tournaments. Despite this, the defender looked calm and collected on possession, providing several cutting edge passes over the top of a high Croatian back-line, feeding Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling. His three clearances, four interceptions, and 100% ground duel success rate allowed him to gain a measure of a flat Croatian attacking line.
John Stones: 7/10
The Manchester City centre-back retained possession in a impressive capacity with a 93% pass completion rate whilst having an impressive 67 touches on the ball. It’s evident Croatia lacked a certain penetrative edge in the final third of the pitch as Stones only had one tackle, one clearance, and two interceptions to make; whilst him and Mings combined were not dribbled past once. If England are to progress in this competition, they will certainly be expecting sterner tests than what was provided this afternoon.
Kieran Trippier: 6/10
Despite manager Gareth Southgate calling up two left-backs into the squad, it was the natural right-back option of Kieran Trippier who was preferred off the back of recently winning the La Liga title with Atlético Madrid. Amazingly, the full-back had only played left-back four times in his career before today and it showed as he lost possession sixteen times. However, aerially, he refused to be dominated, winning all three of his aerial duels and threatened with a number of dangerous crosses into dangerous areas.
Declan Rice: 6/10
The West Ham midfielder was confident and assured as he sat in front of the back four with the role of an anchor placed upon him. Dominant in the air and accurate with his passes from the back, he often released pressure on the defense with a calm, assured nature.
Kalvin Phillips: 8/10
The Leeds midfielder put in a performance worthy of praise from all corners of the country. A man of the match display ensured many doubters and critics were firmly assured and has subsequently given Gareth Southgate much to ponder upon the return of reliable midfielder Jordan Henderson after an injury layoff. The Leeds man held a pass percentage rate of 95%, was successful in 100% of his long passes, drew three fouls to relieve pressure on the team, and provided a skillful assist for the winning goal.
Mason Mount: 7/10
The Chelsea midfielder found himself predominantly occupying the left side of midfield, frequently partnering up with Phil Foden to help create an overlapping option on the right hand side of the opposition defense. A high pass completion rate was almost converted to a well executed assist as his cross found prolific striker Harry Kane at the back post, but was met with a volley off target.
Phil Foden: 7/10
After much discussion within the media in the days leading up to the game, Phil Foden was named amongst the starting eleven, perhaps to the surprise of others and he almost got the game off to a perfect start after hitting the post within the first ten minutes of action. Minutes later, Foden coolly plucked a 40-yard pass out of thin air before killing the ball dead, which was arguably met with a bigger cheer from the England fans than the winning goal itself!
It’s moments like this, which could be the difference between being knocked out and progressing. Players need to be able to produce a moment of magic in a game and the Manchester City midfielder proved he has the necessary technique in abundance.
Raheem Sterling: 7/10
The inclusion of the out-of-form Manchester City attacker had fans eyebrows firmly raised an hour before kick-off, but the managers faith was repaid as he provided the winning goal in a moment of few defining chances. His first goal in a major international tournament helped England win their first game of the Euros for the first time for twelve years!
Harry Kane: 5/10
It was evident that the Tottenham Hotspur captain was not fully fit upon selection as he struggled to make an impact on proceedings in the fashion you’d normally expect of him. With just one shot all game that subsequently ended being off target, it was a day to forget for the usual prolific forward.