Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay now

Get the FREE Mirror Football newsletter by email with the day’s key headlines and transfer news

Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWhen you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with ourPrivacy Notice.Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice

Raheem Sterling ended England's 53-year hoodoo of never having won an opening match at the Euros with a stunning strike as the Three Lions beat Croatia 1-0 at Wembley.

Gareth Southgate's men had a point to prove against the nation that knocked them out of the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and started much the stronger side on Sunday.

But the Three Lions failed to capitalise on their bright spell and towards the end of the first half Croatia had more of a foothold on the game, with Luka Modric pulling the strings.

Southgate made no substitutions at the break, and it seems his half-time team-talk did the trick.

England restarted on the front foot once again and it wasn't long before Kalvin Phillips, who bossed the midfield despite the intimidating presence of Modric, broke forward and played the ball through to Sterling.

The Manchester City forward made no mistake as he was closed down by the keeper and lifted his shot into the back of the net.

Here are five talking points from the match.

Take a bow, Kalvin Phillips

(Image: Pool via REUTERS)

The Leeds midfielder wouldn't have made everyone's dream England XI for the Euros.

Kalvin Philipps isn't experienced when it comes to playing for England, and while he is a defensive player, he has to compete against the likes of Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden as well as Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice for a place in the squad.

But as England discovered in 2004, having a line-up of household superstars isn't always the recipe for success.

And as Greece proved that very same year, a squad of hardworking players all on the same page and all pulling in the same direction is often far more effective.

England have more than a few superstars in this team, and Leeds fans will be quick to tell you just how good Phillips is on his day.

But this 'inexperienced' England side is more fluid than many we've seen in recent years, and Phillips dominating the midfield in the first half before carving it open in the second to put it on a plate for Sterling to score is testament to that.

Southgate picked the wrong right-back

(Image: PA)

Much was made of the fact that Gareth Southgate selected four right-backs when naming his original England squad for Euro 2020.

He lost Trent Alexander-Arnold in England's final warm-up friendly with Austria but had Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Reece James available for selection this Sunday.

Southgate went with Trippier at left-back, to the surprise of many, for the opening fixture and then opted to play Manchester City defender Walker in his natural position.

Read More
Related Articles

  • Jadon Sancho and Ben Chilwell's absences explained for England's opener with Croatia

Read More
Related Articles

  • Gareth Southgate explains why he's playing Kieran Trippier at left-back for England

But being spoilt for choice clearly isn't always a good thing, with the 31-year-old struggling in the first half and Croatia actively targeting his flank on account of the joy they were getting.

The right-back was seemingly incapable of retaining possession and gave the ball away far too many times for this level.

Southgate stuck with him in the second half and the defender's performance certainly improved, but with Reece James breathing down Walker's neck, the Three Lions boss will have plenty to think about before the Scotland game.

Modric still a class act

(Image: Getty Images)

The midfielder might be 35 now but he's still the lynchpin of this Croatia team.

England started the stronger side and pressed high up the pitch for the first 10 minutes at Wembley, but after Phil Foden struck the post, Croatia grew into the game while the Three Lions dropped their pace.

Cue Luka Modric.

The Real Madrid star hadn't put a foot wrong during England's spell on top, but he made the game his own as the first half went on.

Dominating the play in the middle of the park, Modric slowed the tempo of the match and began pulling the strings.

In the second half, England woke up again and got an all-important goal. It was at this point that England's youth in the middle started to pay dividends, with Kalvin Phillips putting in his greatest shift in a Three Lions shirt to date.

Kane unusually quiet in attack

Harry Kane competes in the air against Croatia
(Image: Laurence Griffiths/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Tottenham striker Harry Kane came into England's opening Euro 2020 clash the Premier League's Golden Boot winner after arguably his greatest season.

But while there was some movement around him in the first half – particularly when Raheem Sterling took the game to Croatia in the final third – he struggled to get a foothold on the game.

The first 45 minutes largely passed him by, with England in general struggling to get shots away – just four before the break, with only one of these finding the target.

To be fair to Kane, the striker didn't get great service from his teammates. But at the same time, he did little to change his fortunes as time ticked on and the scores remained level.

On the hour mark, Kane came close to scoring, but it just wasn't his day and in the end, it took Sterling to bail him out.

Sterling repays Southgate's faith

(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Manchester City forward hasn't had the greatest season of his career in a Citizens shirt.

Pep Guardiola had in fact knocked him down the pecking order towards the latter end of the season and the Englishman wasn't a key component in the side that stormed to the title.

Southgate has always been a fan of Sterling and was always going to name him in his England squad for the Euros.

But the Three Lions manager had a big call to make this Sunday, with many fans expecting the in-form Jack Grealish to feature in the starting XI ahead of Sterling.

Leaving out Jadon Sancho, alongside Grealish, Southgate named Sterling in his team and the forward repaid his manager's faith by scoring the all-important goal for England.

Sterling was a thorn in the side of Croatia all match, and even during periods when England were second best, he remained one of the Three Lions' busiest players.