By 90Min
October 12, 2018

Croatia and England played out a drab 0-0 draw in the group A4 matchup in the UEFA Nations League, with the Three Lions guilty of spurning simple opportunities. 

The first half performance of both sides mirrored the lack of atmosphere in the stadium, the game played behind closed doors after sanctions against Croatia fans. 

The first chance of the match came in the 36th minute, the ball laid back to Andrej Kramarič ten yards out only for the Hoffenheim striker's tame effort to land in the grateful arms of Jordan Pickford.

Eric Dier and Harry Kane both hit the woodwork from set pieces either side of half time, but neither team could break the deadlock – with two of the goalscorers from July's match not on the pitch. 

Michael Regan/GettyImages

In the 54th minute, Marcus Rashford was provided a golden opportunity to open the scoring, but could only scuff his effort straight at Dominik Livakovic in the Croatian goal – failing to beat the recently retired Danijel Sibasic's replacement again just moments later. 

Whilst England dominated the remainder of the second half, Gareth Southgate's side were unable to find the breakthrough as the game ended in a frustrating 0-0 draw, leaving both sides winless in the newly-minted competition. 


CROATIA


Key Talking Point


Having lost 5-0 to Spain in their last Nations League fixture, all eyes (not in the stadium, of course) were on Croatia's defence. The World Cup runners up have produced some rather drab performances since their exploits in the summer.

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Whilst this performance against England could not be described as scintillating, bar a rocky spell at the start of the second half, Croatia were rarely troubled. This will have come as a relief to Zlatko Dalić who would have been concerned by how easily his side were ripped apart by Spain. 


Player Ratings


Starting XI: Livakovic (6), Jedvaj (6), Lovren (6), Vida (7), Pivaric (7), Kovačić (6), Rakitic (7), Perisic (7), Modric (6), Kramaric (5), Rebic (6)


Substitutes: Bradaric, Livaja (6), Pasalic, Rog, Pjaca (6), Milic, Santini, Badelj (6), Mitrovic, Bartolec, Sluga


STAR MAN - Ivan Perišić was England's nemesis in the World Cup, as the Inter winger was the man to equalise against the Three Lions in the semi final. The all-action Croatian wide-man put in another quality display on Friday evening.

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Perišić was constantly a willing runner for Zlatko Dalić's side and often gained territory for Croatia with his ambitious runs into England's half. Having been substituted in the 68th minute, the home side seemed to lose some of their attacking threat.


WORST PLAYER - Croatia's striker, in the wake of Mario Mandzukic's retirement from international football, Andrej Kramaric put in a below-par performance against England. The Hoffenheim striker has scored twice in six games this season, but he seemed bereft of confidence in front of goal.

Croatia's best chance of the game fell to Kramaric ten yards out, but he never looked like scoring as he produced a tame effort that was all too easy for Pickford to keep out. He will need to improve his performances drastically if he is to fill the big shoes that Mandzukic has left. 


ENGLAND


Key Talking Point


England's main problem at the World Cup was their lack of creativity, particularly in midfield. Gareth Southgate has attempted to resolve this issue by introducing the likes of Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount and James Maddison into the squad.

However, whilst Sancho was the only one of these players to make an appearance, creativity was not the main problem. England's finishing was what let them down as the squandered at least four presentable opportunities. Dier and Kane were unfortunate to hit the woodwork, whilst Marcus Rashford's missed chances were unforgivable. 

Michael Regan/GettyImages

In a game which England should have won, based off of the chances created, Gareth Southgate will be disappointed in his side's finishing. 


Player Ratings


Starting XI: Pickford (6), Walker (6), Stones (6), Maguire (6), Chilwell (6), Henderson (6), Dier (5), Barkley (7), Sterling (5), Kane (6), Rashford (6)


Substitutes: Chalobah, Gomez, Mount, Dunk, Trippier, Maddison, Winks, Butland, Sancho (7), Alexander-Arnold, Bettinelli


STAR MAN - Ross Barkley seems to be regaining the form he showed for Everton during the early stages of his career. Off the back of a goal and assist against Southampton last weekend, Chelsea's number eight put in an adept performance against Croatia.

Michael Regan/GettyImages

In a midfield which was sorely lacking any kind of creativity, which is to be expected when you start Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson, Barkley was constantly looking for the forward pass or movement. 

WORST PLAYER - Marcus Rashford is a player with an abundance of potential but his display tonight was of a man short on confidence. Manchester United's young forward has played fleetingly for his club this season, and his finishing seemed rusty against Croatia.

In a game where chances were few and far between, Rashford was afforded two golden opportunities to score but spurned both of them, much to Gareth Southgate's frustration. His performance begs the question as to whether players should be starting for England if they are not for their club. 


Looking Ahead


For England, their next game comes in the Nations League as they play their away game against Spain on Monday night. The reverse fixture ended 2-1 to Spain, and Luis Enrique's team backed up their victory with a 5-0 victory over Croatia. Southgate and England can expect a tougher contest than they faced in Rijeka.

Croatia's next game is a friendly against Jordan. Having reached the World Cup final, there has been a rather drastic comedown in performances for the runners up. However, they will be strong favourites to win this game and to do so comfortably. 

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