England vs Croatia | Sunday 13th June 2020, 14:00 | BBC
The wait is finally over. All those years of hurt and that, today’s the day England start their Euro 2020 campaign and everyone is dreaming of it coming home. Even by this country's standards though, the Three Lions go into this tournament with a real chance- boasting an incredible pool of talent- with some bookies even posting them up as favourites.
First up, Gareth Southgate faces the semi-final foe from the 2018 World Cup with revenge on his mind; Croatia. It looks as though the land of a thousand islands' golden generation has peaked with the likes of Luka Modric and Dejan Lovren over the hill. However, I don’t expect the Three Lions to capitalise as Southgate rarely takes the handbrake off.
My first angle for this fixture is things to be all square at half time. This has landed in every one of England’s opening games in a major tournament for the past ten years and it was only thanks to an own goal in the third minute of their game vs Paraguay that they were not drawing at HT in the 2006 World Cup.
It is worth noting that over that period that England have had four long term managers, however, none look to have combated these sluggish antics, Gareth included. In England’s opener vs Tunisia in the 2018 WC it took a late, late winner to sneak past the North African side.
My other selection is more of a punt; Jack Grealish to win Man of the Match at 11/2 with Bet365. ‘Super Jack’ has been setting the Premier League a light for the past two seasons yet he has had to bide his time on the international stage but it looks like his time has finally come and I expect him to grasp it with all his might.
Like David Beckham he has been handed the number seven shirt and like Becks, Grealish also flexes a lovely streaky curtain trim. However, when it comes to comparisons that’s where they end because these two playing styles could not be more different.
Grealish usually plays on the left, socks around his ankles, calf’s bulging. Picks up the ball from deep and drives at the opposition. The sheer time he spends on the ball makes him a prime candidate for the limelight, not to mention the excitement he brings and how he makes things happen.
Amongst the England fans, he’s primed to start but Southgate has been sceptical of his style and rarely favours the individual. However, Grealish’s performances in the two warm up games may have been too good to ignore and if he gets the nod on Sunday I expect he will shine.