Who's afraid of England?

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 2 Dec 2019

England manager Gareth Southgate waved away suggestions Croatia will be afraid of playing his team at Wembley in their opening game at Euro 2020 after they came out in the same group during the draw in Bucharest.

The teams will face off on June 14 in what is likely to be a pivotal game in determining who tops Group D, which will also include the Czech Republic and a playoff winner.

Southgate was told Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic feared the prospect of going to Wembley right at the beginning of the tournament, with London one of 12 cities chosen to host matches.

"I think he's been tactically economical with the truth there," Southgate said.

England beat Croatia 2-1 at home last year in the Nations League, having drawn 0-0 away. However, the most significant recent meeting of the nations came in the 2018 World Cup semi-final in Moscow, when Croatia won 2-1 in extra time.

"We have had three really good games, really tight games, with very little between the teams all three times," Southgate said.

"They have hugely experienced players who have played big matches.

"We are at the other end of the scale, very young, a lot of energy, but still learning and improving."

Southgate was also asked if the match offered a chance to exact revenge for that painful World Cup exit as England missed out on a first major tournament final since 1966. "I think you can never make up for losing in a World Cup semi-final, unfortunately," he replied.

England's second game will be on June 19 against a team to emerge from the playoffs next March, either Norway, Serbia, Israel or Scotland.

The problem for England is likely to come later down the line, however.

If they win their group, they will face the runners-up in the so-called Group of Death, probably Germany, France or Portugal, in the last 16.

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