It has been five years in the making, but on Sunday at 14:00, England get their Euro 2020 bid off and running. The Three Lions are one of the pre-tournament betting favourites, with betting firm Coral predicting England Euro success. France and Belgium complete the top three in the pre-tournament betting.
The team enjoys home advantage for each of their three Group D matches and, if they make it that far, the semi-finals and final will be played at Wembley Stadium. Followers of England know their team will never have a better chance to end their wait for a European Championship win, but they are also aware of past failure after months of hype.
The standout game of the group pairs England and Scotland on Friday. A meeting of the Auld Enemy and one we can all look forward to, but it’ll be a nervy affair if England fails to do as expected and get off to a winning start against Croatia on matchday one.
The head-to-head stats support a tight home win. These nations have met ten times before, with England claiming victory in half those matches. Croatia have three wins with two draws. Will this renewal follow the trends?
All eyes will be on manager Gareth Southgate’s team selection with fans and pundits waiting to see the starting 11. The lineup is expected to be much different from the last preparation match when beating Romania 1-0, but who will get the nod? Let’s look at the options and predict the players who will open England’s group campaign.
There are some obvious picks, players that can prepare for the game with the confidence that comes from knowing their name is already on the teamsheet, written in ink. Tottenham striker Harry Kane will be one of them, and he’ll be asked to lead the line e against Croatia on Sunday as well as Scotland and, if needed, the Czech Republic.
Kane is among the players poised to lead all scoring. You’ll find him as a hot favourite in the Golden Boot winner market ahead of Romelu Lukaku of Belgium and Cristiano Ronaldo for the holders Portugal. The Englishman was the top goalscorer at the last World Cup in Russia, and he’s good enough to win the prize at Euro 2020. England fans know they have one of the best strikers in the world in Kane and want to see him fire the nation to glory.
There are others who are obvious picks and short prices in the betting market to start the game against Croatia on Sunday. Other spaces remain up for grabs, and even after the recent friendly wins, Southgate remains open. He will give those men until the last minute to catch his eye in training before deciding.
The number one slot looks to be a foregone conclusion, with Jordan Pickford expected to start between the sticks. He has vital experience playing in essential matches for England, and his recent form ensures he’ll get the nod from Southgate as a safe pair of hands.
Kyle Walker helped club side Manchester City reach the Champions League final this season before losing to Chelsea. He is the main man at right-back now and won’t have to worry too much about the security of his place.
John Stones is another Manchester City defender who can plan to be busy this summer. He’ll play in the heart of the defence for England in the opening game against Croatia, and if the match goes to plan, it’s unlikely he’ll see much time off.
Tyrone Mings was the standout in the Aston Villa team this season and received the call up he deserves. Will he start the tournament alongside Stones? He wasn’t completely convincing in the friendly matches recently, and this position looks the one that’s open. Mings is picked to get the shirt.
Luke Shaw is the answer to England’s uncertainty at left-back. He’s not yet the complete player, and this position could be rotated in games by Southgate, but he has a solid claim to start on matchday one, and if he does get the call, it will be nothing less than the Man Utd prospect deserves after coming through the ranks.
Phil Foden is another Man City star, and he’ll play in a three-man midfield for England. The middle of the park looks to be set in stone, and Foden will lineup against Croatia on merit. He’s intelligent, uses the ball well and can get forward.
Declan Rice will ensure West Ham United are represented this summer when playing in the holding midfield role. The 22-year-old played an important part in his club team’s season, and if he carries that form into this competition, he won’t miss too much football.
Mason Mount shot to fame under former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, and there’s no telling how far this midfielder can go. He will pull his weight in defence when England are on the backfoot and can score goals in attack as he gets himself in some great positions.
Raheem Sterling gets the call just ahead of Marcus Rashford. The Man City attacker should start against Croatia, but he can’t take his position in the team for granted. With Rashford waiting on the sidelines, eager to get on, it should push Sterling to deliver.
Harry Kane is the player England’s hopes rely on. He is the big name in this England team and one of the biggest in the tournament. Traders have him as the favourite to win the Golden Boot, and he has a history of scoring against Croatia.
Jack Grealish is the second Aston Villa player expected to get the call, and it’s not often you’ll see two Villans in an England side at a major tournament, especially in such an important match. Grealish can score, create, defend, take set pieces. He’s the full package.