Five things we noticed from England’s clash with Croatia

Harry Kane fired England into the UEFA Nations League semi-finals with a late winner against Croatia.

The Three Lions were heading for the relegation trap door with the score finely balanced at 1-1.

Andrej Kramaric had fired the visitors in front after the break before Jesse Lingard levelled with 12 minutes remaining.

That result would not have been enough to save Gareth Southgate’s side from the drop.

But cometh the hour, cometh the man and Kane struck to ensure England join Portugal in the last four – and earn some revenge for the World Cup defeat at the hands of Croatia in the summer.

Here are our talking points from the game…

1. Same old England

The performance bore striking similarities to England’s win over Tunisia during this summer’s World Cup.

Gareth Southgate’s team looked the fitter, better team, and as a direct result carved out chance after chance after chance.

But in exactly the same way fluffed each and every opportunity to score.

This Three Lions squad is undoubtedly one of the best there has been in recent decades, but it still lacks that cutting edge – that spitefulness that Manchester City have for instance, to go for the jugular and then kick a deflated team when it’s down.

A bout of sloppy play and England found themselves behind on Sunday, in search of two goals to prevent relegation.

Fortunately the Three Lions were able to achieve just that, showing some brilliant perseverance and attitude – but there’s no denying the result could have been a little more comfortable than it was.


2. Lovren’s head WAS in the game

For one reason or another England fans see Dejan Lovren as some sort of weak link in this Croatia side.

Perhaps it’s because Harry Kane embarrassed the centre-back in Tottenham’s 4-1 win over Liverpool at Wembley last season; a game in which Lovren was hauled off on the half-hour mark by a shocked Jurgen Klopp.

Couple this with the fact that this week the Liverpool defender hasn’t been out of the news due to his controversial remarks about Sergio Ramos, and you’d think the defender’s mind would probably be elsewhere going into Croatia’s clash with England.

But you’d be wrong.

England had a lot of joy going forward on Sunday afternoon, particularly in the first half, but there is a reason why the Three Lions were unable to take their chances and Lovren must receive some credit for this.

The centre-back was commanding alongside Domagoj Vida, who he formed a great partnership with during the World Cup, and up until the final quarter of an hour did a good job of containing his nemesis Kane.


3. Delph does chances no harm

After captaining England against USA, Fabian Delph was handed another start at Wembley.

Jordan Henderson was expected to come in but Gareth Southgate decided not to risk the Liverpool midfielder as he continues his recovery from injury.

Delph is arguably best known for his ball-winning abilities in central midfield but he showed a different side to his game against Croatia.

He made England tick, particularly during the first half, and almost set up Raheem Sterling with an exquisite chipped pass with his right foot.

Croatian stopper Kalinic thwarted Sterling before two Harry Kane efforts were hacked clear.

Another cross-field pass from Delph to Sterling nearly set up another opening for the hosts.

Henderson is probably still ahead of Delph in the pecking order while Harry Winks was excellent against Spain recently.

But the Manchester City man remains a key component of Southgate’s squad due to his versatility and performances like this will do his hopes of a regular starting spot no harm.

4. Croatia feeling the pace

Unlike England who enjoyed a friendly/charity match in midweek against the USA during which Wayne Rooney was serenaded on his final appearance, Croatia fought out a five-goal thriller with Spain.

And their exertions clearly told at Wembley as they struggled with England’s early pace with Zlatko Dalic forced to bring on Antonio Milic for Sime Vrsaljko after just 26 minutes in a bid to stem the tide.

Josip Brekalo came on at half-time for Ante Rebic as the visitors struggled to get a foothold on the game.

But then Andrej Kramaric’s doggedness – a feature of Croatia’s play at the World Cup – came to the fore as he wriggled free at the edge of the box and fired them in front.

Ultimately, however, they were made to pay late on.


5. More bad news for Rashford

It hasn’t exactly been a great season for Marcus Rashford with the youngster struggling to hold down a place in the Manchester United first team.

He was given another chance to impress here by Southgate and his pace caused problems for the Croatian defence.

It was something of a surprise then, that he was hooked with 20 minutes to play as Jadon Sancho was introduced.

But the change soon made sense when Rashford hobbled straight down the tunnel.

The 20-year-old will be hoping the knock doesn’t keep him out of Jose Mourinho’s sight and mind.

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