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Nations League: England fail to make the most of chances as they are held to Croatian draw

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The stage was set for England to take revenge against Croatia after being knocked out by them in this summer’s World Cup, but the fluffing of crucial chances saw them held to a bitter 0-0 draw.

This really was no regular Nations League match up, especially considering how the game was shaping up to be a grudge match. But there was another particularly strange difference to normal matchups: there were no spectators in sight.

Back in 2015, a swastika was etched onto the pitch in a qualifying game between Croatia and Italy for the 2016 European Championships. Following this, the game against England would have to behind closed doors as a form of punishment.

With no Croatian fans in sight, it was the perfect opportunity for England to take away the home field advantage and take away three Nations League points.

The first half saw England presented with a clear-cut chance to get on the score sheet and from a set piece none the less. Jordan Henderson’s corner was perfectly placed but Eric Dier just missed the target as his headed ball bounced off of the post.

The second half saw the better opportunities for both sides, with Croatia’s Perisic taking the first clear-cut chance that flew straight into the gloves of Jordan Pickford from 18 yards out.  

Moments later, England skipper, Harry Kane, hit the crossbar and it started to become clear that this may not be England’s night.

Ross Barkley was bought down in the Croatian penalty box after his heels were clipped by Rebic, but all the calls were dismissed by the referee.

In a quick and frustrated response, the Manchester City defender, John Stones, took one for the team in bringing down Ivan Rakitic who looked like he was about to cause serious issues for the Three Lions.

John Stones was awarded a yellow card for the challenge which will see him absent from the team to face Spain, as well as Jordan Henderson who also picked up his second booking of the campaign.

The 55th minute saw an incredibly clear-cut chance presented to Marcus Rashford after Kyle Walker expertly played him through on goal. The chance was fluffed by Rashford after he failed to make a proper connection with the ball.

The same series of events occurred in the 57th minute after Sterling slipped the ball towards Marcus Rashford who was one on one with the Croatian keeper. Livakovic made a good save to prevent the goal but Rashford really should’ve done better.

Rebic made an unbelievable shot on target in the 67th minute, with the ball looking to curl into the top left corner. But, the England number one, Jordan Pickford, made an equally brilliant save to keep the game equal.

Jadon Sancho, who has been impressing in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund, made his senior level debut for the Three Lions at the tender age of 18. Sancho looked fiery and proved to be a handful at times for the Croatian defence after he was bought on late into the game.

Sancho will undoubtedly prove to be a helpful tool in Gareth Southgate’s future England squad as they look to gain their first piece of silverware since the 1966 World Cup, but before that, England will face Spain again on Monday night before hosting Croatia at Wembley for their last match of the Nations League group stages.

Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons. 

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