The final match in the Uefa Nations League group, which consisted of Spain, England, and Croatia, still had everything to play for, from progression to the final four to relegation in a separate bracket. If Croatia won, they would be top—relegating England. If England won, it would be just the opposite. And if they drew, Spain would be top relegating England. The English had one option: win and go top, or be relegated.
Playing at home in Wembley, Gareth Southgate’s team had the fans behind them. The English set-up with a strong defensive shape, holding their line of confrontation near the top of the center circle and using a 4-2-3-1 to suffocate and block the passing lanes for Croatia. For the first 15 minutes, Croatia found it nearly impossible to pass out of the back. All lanes were closed and England had denied any pocket of space to zip the ball through. Both Modric and Brozovic were forced to come very deep to pick up the ball, but struggled to find any options in front of them. England were by far the better of the two teams in the first half, creating golden opportunities to go in front—one through Kane and another through Sterling, but both were denied by Kalinic. I would be ecstatic to see Harry Kane in the all white of Madrid, even if he doesn’t score, he creates so many good opportunities for his teammates with his ability to hold off a defender, turn and create space with one touch, and then have the vision and class to slip through an inch perfect through ball. He is one of, if not the best, all around strikers in Europe.
Dalic, the Croatian manager, adjusted things at half-time and pushed Luka Modric higher up the pitch to help aid the team on the counter. Luka was stationed just in between the lines of England’s defense and midfield, where he was relieved of some defensive duties. Dalic changes pay dividends as Croatia were much more effective and dangerous for the opening 15 minutes of the second half. They capitalized on their good play, through a counter attack, which was capped off by a brilliant goal from Kramaric:
After Croatia’s goal, the game really opened up as England had to push men forward—it was win or be relegated for Gareth’s men. Croatia found opportunity after opportunity to counter, but much like England in the first half, failed to capitalize on their chances. A double change from Southgate, Jadon Sancho and Jesse Lingard, shifted the momentum back in England’s favor. Lindgard scored the first off a scrappy long throw in and the Wembley crowd roared England on to the second. Harry Kane scored the winner in the 85th minute with a sliding toe-poke finish from Ben Chillwell’s free kick:
England have done it!— Under The Floodlights (@UTF_Sport) November 18, 2018
Southgate’s men qualify for the semi-finals of the #UEFANationsLeague!
England 2-1 Croatia
Harry Kane’s late goal proved to be the winner after falling behind to the #WorldCup runners-up!#ENGCRO #England #Croatiapic.twitter.com/PiWedQRHi1
The final score saw England win 2-1 against Croatia, meaning Luka Modric and co were relegated. Croatia failed to capitalize on their lead and England were able to overrun them with their dynamism in attack.
Luka Modric Stats vs England:
Shots: 1 (0 on target)
Key Passes: 2
Touches: 84 (Most on team—next closest was 54)
Passes: 63 with an 84.1% PA (Most on team)
Tackles: 3 (joint most on team)
Interceptions: 5 (most on team)