Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
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England play out stalemate with Croatia in Rijeka

England play out stalemate with Croatia in Rijeka

One of the biggest games in the early stages of the first-ever UEFA Nations League will be played on Friday when Croatia face England.

Southgate threw on 18-year-old Jadon Sancho for his global debut 12 minutes from time in search of a victor.

Croatia were completing a UEFA sanction after a swastika symbol was carved into the pitch during a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy over three years ago.

Gareth Southgate believes that England's tactical switch to earn a goalless draw in Croatia showed his young team continue to make significant progress since reaching the World Cup semi-finals.

The game was built up by some English media as a chance for the visitors to avenge Croatia's 2-1 World Cup semi-final win in Russian Federation in July but the game failed to produce any fireworks.

Since finishing as runner-up at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Croatia has drawn Portugal 1-1 before being thrashed by Spain, 6-0, in its first Natoins League contest.

"It feels like a game we should have won", Southgate said after England secured the first point of their Nations League campaign.

Luckily there will be plenty of support and noise when England take on Spain during Monday's clash at the Benito Villamarin Stadium.

The Leicester left-back provided a fine cross 12 minutes into his first England start and Sterling would have tucked it away was it not for Josip Pivaric's intervention. That approach earned Mateo Kovacic and Dejan Lovren bookings.

Henderson's omission will mean the midfielder will now likely be at full fitness for Saturday's trip to Huddersfield.

Southgate will be buoyed heading there by the fact that Croatia did not get as much joy in that department as they did in Moscow.

England managed just one effort in the opening 45 minutes, coming right at the end when Dier flicked on a corner and hit the far post, which neither Harry Maguire nor Rashford could convert from the rebound due to the awkward bounce.

Southgate added that his players' deep antipathy towards England supporters stems from having spent a considerable amount of time in their presence. Two minutes after failing to greet a fine Kyle Walker cross with the finish it deserved from close range, he was put through by Sterling but somehow failed to beat Livakovic.

Tin Jedvaj was perhaps fortunate to only see yellow for a late challenge on Dier, but Croatia had now settled and Kramaric had a chance before Rebic curled just wide from 20 yards.

"Football is played for the fans".

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