Raheem Sterling's goal was enough to give Gareth Southgate's men a landmark success.
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Raheem Sterling's goal ensured England won their opening game at a EURO finals for the first time in their history.
Match in brief
England were quickly out of the blocks at Wembley Stadium with Phil Foden curling an effort off the post and Kalvin Phillips bringing a low save out of Dominik Livaković, but Croatia weathered the early storm and finished the half on par with their hosts.
Luka Modrić finally called Jordan Pickford into action after the interval but, almost immediately, the visitors fell behind when Phillips' incisive pass gave Sterling enough time to fire under Livaković.
Although Sterling blazed over a presentable chance to make the game safe, the Croatians rarely looked like responding as Gareth Southgate's men started Group D with an important success.
Star of the Match: Raheem Sterling (England)
"He was England's best attacking player on the day and that culminated in a good goal."
David Moyes, UEFA Technical Observer
Simon Hart, England reporter
England have already achieved a first at this EURO by winning their opening match. Sterling’s goal vindicated Southgate’s faith in a player who had not scored in any of his previous 12 appearances at a major tournament and lost his place in Man City’s first team. It also highlighted the influence of the impressive Phillips, source of the through pass. Beforehand Southgate had stood and had a quiet moment of reflection alone on the pitch; by the end Wembley had erupted in noisy celebration and his team are up and running.
Elvir Islamović, Croatia reporter
This loss is not tragic for Croatia. They held firm for most of the match and Zlatko Dalić will be aware of what he needs to improve for the game against the Czech Republic. Certain players were not at their top level, but it really wasn't that bad. Dalić and his charges were aware who the favourites were at Wembley and this loss will not have a big influence on their plans. I'm sure the coach will rally the team and make a few alterations for the remaining two matches, in which Croatia should be clear favourites on paper.
Raheem Sterling, England forward: "It feels good to score. I always said if I played at Wembley at a major tournament I had to score and it's great to finally do that. It's great to start off with a win and now we have other games to look forward to."
Kalvin Phillips, England midfielder: "It was very enjoyable. It was very warm and that took its toll towards the end of the game. It's a great feeling to get an assist and then the three points."
Tyrone Mings, England defender: "It's a dream come true to play in a major tournament for England and I loved every second of it. The team showed a lot of grit, a lot of determination and a lot of quality. Croatia are a top team, as we found out before, but we always have quality to trouble teams."
Zlatko Dalić, Croatia coach: "In attack we didn't show much quality, but we were playing against England, who are a terrific team. We were their equal most of the time. This is encouraging to me and it will be better in the forthcoming matches."
Šime Vrsaljko, Croatia right-back: "We've lost our opening match at a EURO for the first time ever, but it's not a disaster. We had some good spells, but England were better. We gave our best. We won't surrender our chances now. I am certain that things will look different over the course of the next two matches."
- England won their opening group game at a UEFA European Championship for the first time, in their ninth attempt (D5 L3).
- The Three Lions are now unbeaten in their last nine EURO final tournament group stage matches.
- The hosts have won their last seven international matches – six of those victories have come without conceding a goal.
- England have won all 11 matches in which Sterling has scored.
- Jude Bellingham became the youngest ever player to appear at the finals, aged 17 years and 349 days.
- Croatia's defeat was their first in their opening group match at a UEFA European Championship (W4 D1).
- Croatia have only kept one clean sheet in their last nine EURO final tournament matches.
England: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Mings, Trippier; Phillips, Rice; Sterling (Calvert-Lewin 90), Mount, Foden (Rashford 71); Kane (Bellingham 82)
Croatia: Livaković; Vrsaljko, Ćaleta-Car, Vida, Gvardiol; Brozović (Vlašić 70); Kramarić (Brekalo 70), Modrić, Kovačić (Pašalić 85), Perišić; Rebić (Petković 78)