What England learned from Croatia’s defeat to Belgium

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Luka Modric is still the heartbeat of the team, the chances of goals are less without Mario Mandzukic and Romelu Lukaku’s winner shows that rules of the game can be a weakness… what England learned from Croatia’s final Euro 2020 warm-up match with Belgium

Croatia fell to a narrow defeat in their final warm-up game before playing England in their opening Euro 2020 match on June 13.

Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal of the game in a thrilling encounter in Brussels, in which Croatia showed a number of qualities that have made them so hard to beat in previous tournaments.

Luka Modric is still the heartbeat of the team and although this squad’s cycle is coming to an end, their experience poses a threat to them.

Sportsmails Jack Gaughan reveals what England would have learned from Croatia’s defeat.

Friday 11 June

European championship

Group stage

Turkey

Italy

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Saturday June 12

European championship

Group stage

Wales

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Switzerland

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Group stage

Denmark

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Finland

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Group stage

Belgium

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Russia

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Sunday 13 June

European championship

Group stage

England

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Croatia

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Romelu Lukaku scored the winner against Croatia in the final warm-up match of Euro 2020 from both sides

Romelu Lukaku scored the winner against Croatia in the final warm-up match of Euro 2020 from both sides

England should be wary of Luka Modric still leading the show for Croatia in midfield

England should be wary of Luka Modric still leading the show for Croatia in midfield

REAL DRESS REPETITION

Gareth Southgate knows that the team selected by Zlatko Dalic was very close to the one England will meet at Wembley on Sunday.

Mateo Kovacic on Nikola Vlasic in midfield three was probably the only decision that could change depending on how aggressive Dalic wants to be.

Last night was exactly what you expect from a side of Croatia. Each man comfortably in possession, a methodical passage through the third and Luka Modric’s heartbeat to the right of their midfield three.

Patient when they are in control of the ball, but have the ability to counter with pace, was shown when Ante Rebic threatened seconds after a Belgian corner via Modric’s quick thinking.

Mateo Kovacic didn't start but is expected to come in for their Euro opener with England

Mateo Kovacic didn’t start but is expected to come in for their Euro opener with England

SHARE THE LOAD

The goals will have to be shared, that’s for sure. There is no Mario Mandzukic these days after his retirement and Dinamo Zagreb’s Bruno Petkovic – who has never reached double figures in a league campaign – will be the man in charge.

Supporters criticized Petkovic for being flattered to cheat in the Nations League, but his hold-up play is strong.

The 26-year-old’s bond with others is an asset and crucial to ensuring that both broad men, Rebic and Ivan Perisic, have a say in the proceedings. Those two certainly take on the main attack responsibility and each showed a glimpse of Belgium.

Bruno Petkovic leads the line for Croatia after Mario Manduzkic .'s retirement

Bruno Petkovic leads the line for Croatia after Mario Manduzkic .’s retirement

PUT PIECES

Romelu Lukaku’s halftime goal is the kind that Croatian fans will point to as their biggest problem. A routine game didn’t work out well and Dalic’s back four didn’t reorganize quickly enough after that.

Deadball situations are worrisome, which is curious considering Domagoj Vida’s experience in their defense. It sometimes seemed that Belgium deserved a lot of fun with straight balls in Lukaku or those cut over the top by Youri Tielemans.

IN RESERVE

There is an awareness that this generation’s time is drawing to a close, but their experience – and positive past experiences from the last World Cup – make them both dangerous and successful. However, Dalic needs options to change a game.

Mandzukic is no more, neither Ivan Rakitic in midfield nor goalkeeper Danijel Subasic. The trick is to get new, blood-curdling matches off the couch.

There is a lot of excitement surrounding Croatian teenage defender Josko Gvardiol (right)

There is a lot of excitement surrounding Croatian teenage defender Josko Gvardiol (right)

Croatia needs new blood. Few have managed to make their way to base, although Duje Caleta-Car in central Marseille was chosen last night in the absence of Dejan Lovren. There is a lot of excitement surrounding RB Leipzig’s teenage defender Josko Gvardiol, who made an international debut at halftime.

Josip Brekalo, 22, has made steady progress at Wolfsburg over the past four seasons and could offer something else off the bench during the tournament.

The effectiveness of their replacements can be the difference between success and failure, and no one knows exactly how those in reserve will perform.

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