England take on Croatia in their Euro2020 Group D opener on June 13 at Wembley Stadium. The Three Lions come into the tournament as favourites and will be anxious to get their European Championship campaign off to a good start. They face a Croatia side who have twice been quarter-finalists in this tournament and who beat England in the semi-finals of the World Cup back in 2018.
Gareth Southgate’s side come into the tournament on a fairly decent run of form, having only lost twice in their last 11 fixtures. The March internationals went well for England, with the expecting win over San Marino being followed by fairly straightforward victories over Albania and Poland. However, as good as England are in qualifying, tournaments have always been the issue and since making the last four in Euro1996 on home turf, England have struggled in these Championships. There is a lot of pressure on them from expectant fans and there is a question of if the team can keep it’s composure.
Croatia on the other hand come into this tournament on the back of six defeats in 11 games. While they won their last two games against Cyprus and Malta in Rijeka, the Blazers have struggled against higher ranked teams losing to France, Sweden, Portugal, and Slovenia. That run of defeats has seen Croatia slip down the rankings to 14 and it will be interesting to see how Zlatko Daric gets them focused for this tournament.
England skipper Jordan Henderson has been included in the squad despite having not played for Liverpool since February due to injury. Southgate has named an extended squad for the two warm up games with Austria and Romania which will give Henderson a chance to prove himself fit; however he does face competition for his place from Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips who have both looked good for England in the spring internationals. There is a very youthful look to the preliminary squad too, and it will be interesting to see how much faith Southgate has in bright young talents such as Phil Foden of Manchester City along with Borussia Dortmund pair Jadon Sancho and Jude Bellingham.
Croatia have named their 26 man squad for the tournament already. With Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic having retired from international football and skipper Luka Modric probably at his last tournament, the question is how a new generation of talent can take the team forward. 24-year-old Marseille defender Duje Caleta-Car was the subject of a Liverpool bid in the winter but stayed in France as Marseille couldn’t replace him while former Everton midfielder Nikola Vlasic has blossomed at Spartak Moscow.
England come into this game as favourites, as is befitting for a team that is backed by many to win the whole tournament. However, there are question marks over just how mentally strong this England team is. While defenders like John Stones and Harry Maguire have impressed for their clubs this season, there is always a feeling that they have a mistake in them. English fans will remember how Croatia came back from a goal down to beat them 2-1 in Russia in the 2018 World Cup semi-final; the question is can Croatia surprise England again? It’s going to be tight, and for that reason, we think the handicap market is a good value bet.