UEFA Nations Cup – Group A4 fixture: England and Croatia draw Blank with a 0-0 Result.
In strangely eerie settings behind closed doors of the Stadion HNK Rijeka, England, playing in a UEFA Nations clash, failed to exact revenge on WC 2018 finalists Croatia who just 93 days ago had ousted the Three Lions in the semi-finals of the world's premier football tournament in Russia.
The lack of emotions of a completely empty stadium was reflected in the game too. The first half was a flat affair with both teams rarely testing each other. Gareth Southgate's men adjusted to the surreal and totally unfamiliar surroundings better than one would have expected them to. Headers from Harry Kane and Eric Dier hit the woodwork twice and Marcus Rashford had a couple of glorious opportunities in one-on-one situations with goalkeeper Dominik Livakovicto to put the game beyond Croatia's reach.
For Croatia, it was the usual story of missed chances for striker Andrej Kramaric and the best the hosts came to scoring was when Ivan Perisic's crisp low drive was pared off by an alert English goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Eighteen-year old debutante Jadon Sancho replacing Raheem Sterling in the second half in the 78th minute injected life into the proceedings during the little time he spent on the pitch and looked a genuine threat whenever the ball came to him.
Another England player making his debut, Leicester City defender Ben Chilwell, was effective in challenges and superb with his distribution, producing a top-quality cross in the first half to give Raheem Sterling a clear opportunity to score.
Attacking Chelsea mid-fielder Ross Barkley made his first international appearance, too, but the 24-year old made a nervous start, losing possession of the ball quite often. The only significant moment for Barkley was when he drove into the rival box and tangled with Ante Rebic forcing penalty claims which didn't materialize though.
All in all, the 0-0 result perfectly mirrored the circumstances in which the game was played. The hosts, laden with players like Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic failed to take advantage of surroundings to which they were not very unfamiliar. This was Croatia's fourth game behind closed doors inside three years and the draw leaves them at the bottom of Group A4, but on identical points with England.
But the Three Lions could be staring at elimination from the 3-team Group as they make a daunting trip to Spain early next week. Croatia may feel they are better placed in the sense that will have to host the Spanish in their coming fixture, but their 0-6 drubbing at the hands of the Group leaders last month will be hard to shake off. Spain look easy qualifiers from the Group having won both against Croatia and England in home and away games.