- goal scored by J. Lingard
- goal scored by H. Kane
- goal scored by A. Kramarić
- goal scored by J. Lingard
- goal scored by H. Kane
goal scored by
- A. Kramarić
A great test for us
England boss Gareth Southgate prepares for final match of 2018 in his programme notes
We’ve been really looking forward to getting back with the players again for this month’s games, having had such a strong end to last year.
We’ve also got a fresh qualifying campaign for EURO 2020 and what will be an amazing tournament. We’ve still got the Nations League semi-finals to look forward to later in the year, but we have to get back to zero and remember what has got us to this point, the way we’ve worked and the strengths of the group and re-focus to make sure we’re ready for this next challenge.
We have to take care of qualification for this one, because the tournament itself is going to be massive. To have the group matches at Wembley, having lived through all of that myself 20-odd years ago and having had an incredible experience, it is a massive incentive there for all of us.
It’s a tough qualifying group that we’re in. In terms of the nations involved, you can look at the rankings and think that in terms of quality we should get out of it, but they’re all games which have caused us problems in the past.
We’ve played Montenegro twice out there in recent years and not beaten them yet, so that shows how tough these games can be. It’s about making sure our preparations are spot on. There is competition for places in the squad and the team and that’s a really important factor for us, to make sure everybody’s focus is right.
The Nations League this summer is something we can look forward to, but this month we really need to park it and concentrate on these two games. What was pleasing in the autumn was that one of the questions against us was could we win against the top teams.
So to get the victory in Spain and then to win in such dramatic circumstances against Croatia, having gone beyond, was a real test for the team, not just in terms of capability but also the personality and character that they’re now showing. These are all hurdles which we need to overcome. It’s something to really get excited about in the summer, but we need to make sure that this week, we’re taking a really strong step towards the next summer and there’s no room for error.
You can read the full piece from Gareth in the match programme, which also features the thoughts of Callum Wilson, Patrik Berger and much more. Order your copy now.
England v Croatia
Stunning late comeback seals England win
Second-half goals from Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane secured a stunning victory for England, top spot in their UEFA Nations League group and a spot in the inaugural Nations League Finals next June.
England produced a dramatic late comeback to beat Croatia and make it through to the semi-finals of the Nations League.
It looked for a long time like Andrej Kramaric’s 57th-minute goal would consign the Three Lions to an agonising defeat and relegation from League A of UEFA’s newest international competition.
But two late goals, from substitute Jesse Lingard and captain Harry Kane, rescued three vital points which meant Gareth Southgate’s side took top spot in Group 4 ahead of Spain and World Cup runners-up Croatia.
They are now in the hat for the finals draw on Monday 3 December.
England enjoyed by far the better of a frantic opening period and had a number of chances to turn their first-half dominance into something tangible.
Southgate’s charges survived an early scare when Jordan Pickford half-cleared Fabian Delph’s back pass and Ante Rebic fired the loose ball over the top.
But England regained their composure and created four golden opportunities before the 25-minute mark.
Raheem Sterling fired a shot straight at Croatia goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic when put through by Kane with the Three Lions skipper unable to turn home John Stones’s knockdown from the subsequent corner.
Kane then had two chances blocked in quick succession; the first by Tin Jedvaj and the second by the recovering Kalinic, who had clattered into Sterling seconds earlier.
England tails were up and Sime Vrsaljko was forced to rescue Croatia with a last-ditch slide tackle to deny Marcus Rashford a clean strike at goal after the Manchester United forward was found by Pickford’s pinpoint pass.
Croatia had a few, albeit less clear-cut, chances themselves and it was a surprise the two sides went in goalless at the break.
England picked up where they left off after the restart with Rashford and Sterling combining to force Kalinic to get down and palm away to his right.
And Zlatko Dalic’s side made England pay for their profligacy just before the hour mark.
Substitute Josep Brekalo, on for Rebic, slipped Nikola Vlasic into the box and he found Kramaric on the penalty spot.
The Hoffenheim forward twisted and turned until he found the requisite space to have a crack at goal, with his shot deflecting off Eric Dier and beyond Pickford’s desperate lunge.
England now needed two goals to not just stave off relegation, but to win the group; a 1-1 draw would have meant Croatia stayed ahead of their hosts courtesy of a superior head-to-head record, following the 0-0 draw in Rijeka last month.
Southgate made three attacking changes, summoning Dele, Lingard and Jadon Sancho from the bench – and it paid off almost immediately.
Croatia had a decent chance to put the game to bed but dallied on a counter attack, and England punished them.
A long throw by Joe Gomez was nodded down by Stones, prodded goalwards by Kane and tapped over the line by Lingard to breathe life into the Three Lions’ Nations League campaign and re-energise the 78,000-strong crowd.
The goalscorer was just as important at the other end when he hooked Domagoj Vida’s header off the line, leaving the path clear for Kane to steer his country into the last four.
Ben Chilwell bent a delicious 85th-minute free-kick into the box and the ball zipped past everyone, except Kane, who slid in to guide the ball into the far corner and send Wembley Stadium into raptures.
- Goals: 1
- Goal-line clearance: 1
- Mins played: 17