If England are eager to find a clear key match in the World Cup in Russia, Gareth Southgates England three years later is now able to alter different playing styles according to player materials and opponents.
He has a back line that has worked well in Russia. But England also played 4-3-3 or 3-4-3. Above all, balance is the key word.
Just because he has an abundance of offensive weapons – Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford – he can’t use them all at once.
After all, it’s not ‘fantasy football’ as co-league captain Steve Holland explained this week, probably tired of talking about a very strong bench.
Now England are starting with Declan Rice and Calvin Phillips as defensive midfielders.
Or everyone thought so.
But Calvin Phillips pressed hard and hard instead.
And just eight minutes later, England had four superb chances thanks to that pressure.
Luka Modric had to delve deeper into half of his plan just so Croatia could catch a breath.
Even there, England could have killed this match.
And of course, this is not the same Croatia that knocked England out of the World Cup.
But it was due to take on Twitter’s Yorkshire Pirlo in the UK during the match, a sweet tribute to Leeds’ Calvin Phillips.
This is, of course, an invitation to ridicule classic English arrogance, but Yorkshire Pirlo was the key to victory.
When they lost the press, especially at the end of the first half, Croatia dominated the match.
Then I found Croatia Calm, slowed to a more relaxed rhythm for an aging team, England found it increasingly difficult to catch up with Luka Modric.
It was also Phillips who was behind Raheem Sterling’s goal with a powerful and deep shot and a beautiful pass.
Raheem Sterling was also a surprise in the starting lineup, which was successful, and was picked ahead of Marcus Rashfords, among others, despite the fact that he’s been in poor shape recently.
The win meant they took charge of the group, managing the favorites and could now play the derby against Scotland without the same unbearable pressure that would have meant losing points.
No one on this team wanted to go to a prestigious meeting against their neighbor Scotland with the press having to win.
Many in England need to raise the bar if they are to go far in the European Championships.
But that is exactly what England needed.
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