Monday, 17 December, 2018

Southgate keeps Sancho in reserve for Croatia revenge mission

John Stones and Gareth Southgate on the pitch John Stones is still upset by the World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia Credit Getty Images
Cassandra Castillo | 13 October, 2018, 07:37

Because a swastika was marked on Croatia's pitch before a Euro 2016 qualifier almost three years ago, FIFA punished the federation by telling it the next two home global games would have to be played behind closed doors.

"It was unusual", said midfielder Eric Dier.

England manager Gareth Southgate was disappointed with the outcome, saying: "Second half we were by far the better team and if we had taken our chances we would have won the game". We showed good endeavour and creative play.

But the hosts won't be able to count on any support in their first home match since the World Cup with the game being played behind closed doors in Rijeka.

After the game, the England players spoke about the atmosphere against the 2018 World Cup runners-up. "It was the first experience of it for all of us, a odd atmosphere".

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"We're here to try and get a result so the team we play will be a team we believe in and [one that is] ready to start", Southgate told a news conference. Because they had a real lesson in the summer about playing a World Cup semi-final.

The absence of spectators - with the exception of a hardy group of England supporters watching from the top of a nearby hill - contributed to a low-key opening in Rijeka, with shots at goal about as common as fans through the turnstiles in the early stages.

Chants of "God Save the Queen" from England supporters who had gathered outside the ground seemed to lift Gareth Southgate's side after the break but the woodwork and some terrible finishing by Rashford denied them a goal.

He scuffed a feeble shot at Dominik Livakovic from eight metres when clear on goal and the keeper then denied him again with a superb reflex save from an nearly identical position. Several young players were called up for the Three Lions' upcoming stretch, including 18-year-old Jadon Sancho, who's the first player born this millenium to be selected to the English senior team.

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