England, Croatia advance at Euro championships

England, Croatia advance at Euro championships

At least England now knows it can rely on Raheem Sterling for goals.

The scoring touch missing at his last three tournaments has been rediscovered on home territory, and it gave his team first place in its group.

Sterling scored his second goal at Euro 2020 on Tuesday to secure a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic at Wembley Stadium. Both teams had already qualified for the round of 16.

The header at the far-post from Jack Grealish’s cross in the 12th minute moved England onto a path where its only game away from Wembley will be a potential quarterfinal match in Rome.

Home comforts should certainly help Sterling, who grew up in the shadow of the Wembley arch and is proving to be England’s game-changer.

Raheem Sterling of England celebrates after scoring their side’s first goal. (Getty)

How unlike the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, and Euro 2016, when Sterling was unable to find the net. This time, it was his goal that also clinched the opening win over Croatia.

The Manchester City player is stepping up as 2018 World Cup Golden Boot winner Harry Kane endures a barren run in front of goal.

Kane at least managed his first shot on target of Euro 2020 against the Czechs after failing to do so against Croatia and in the 0-0 draw with Scotland.

Beyond Sterling’s goal, there wasn’t much for the pandemic-restricted crowd of about 20,000 to celebrate. What did get them cheering were goal updates being flashed on the big screens as Scotland lost to Croatia 3-1 and was eliminated as the last-place team.

The goals in Glasgow had big implications for the Czechs, who dropped from first place to third and are uncertain about where their last-16 game will be.

England will host the runner-up from Group F on Tuesday. That opponent could be World Cup champion France, defending champion Portugal, Germany or Hungary.

Croatia advances

Croatia captain Luka Modrić lurked on the edge of the area, waiting for the ball to come to him before stroking it into the top corner with the outside of his boot.

At 35, this may well be Modrić’s last European Championship, and he doesn’t want to go home just yet.

Modrić’s goal in the 62nd minute helped Croatia beat Scotland 3-1 and give the team a spot in the round of 16 at Euro 2020.

Modrić had a quiet first two group matches, with the midfielder forced into deeper positions and Croatia facing criticism for lacking spark in attack. But the playmaker showed his class and why he won the Ballon d’Or in 2018 — the same year he helped his team reach the World Cup final.

He fell to his knees at the whistle for about a minute before rising to his feet and pumping his fists in celebration.

Luka Modric of Croatia celebrates after victory. (Getty)

Croatia’s two other goals came from winger Nikola Vlašić’s low shot from close range in the 17th minute and Ivan Perišić’s flicked header in the 77th.

Vlašić’s took two touches for his goal and fired a low shot past Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall. It was Croatia’s first real attack of the match after Scotland dominated the opening stages.

It was poor defending by wingback Stephen O’Donnell, who let Perišić jump above him unchallenged. Scotland sat back on occasions after the goal, inviting Croatia to push forward in dangerous positions.

Callum McGregor equalized for Scotland just before halftime, drilling the ball from just outside the penalty area into the left corner. Scotland’s first goal of the tournament electrified the atmosphere at Hampden Park, with the Tartan Army jumping and hugging in the stands.

Scotland had pressed down the flanks with two crosses into the box, and Croatia only half-cleared the ball before it fell to McGregor.

But it wasn’t enough for Scotland, which exit the tournament in last place in the group with only one point.

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