Croatia were heroes in the summer.
They came home to a crowd of 500,000 in Zagreb and did a tour of each player’s home town.
But they’ve fallen apart since then and the keeper is tonight is their third choice.
Southgate’s gone for Kyle Walker at right back because Croatia exploited wide areas in the World Cup semi-final in Russia. Walker is a very strong athlete with huge recovery pace and England will need that tonight. His power could help England to dominate in the later stages.
I’m convinced that Croatia will really miss keeper Subašić of Monaco, who has retired from the national team.
Harry Kane, captain of club and country, had a second child in the summer, and has been suffering from burn-out,
I’m not sure Ross Barkley will give the England midfield what it needs. But the might do. He’s a power player, very strong, with a good eye for a pass.
Barkley is up against clubmate Kovacic, as well as Modric and Rakitic.
That’s a very savvy trio of stars who can all create and finish.
If we score first, I think England can win.
But if the match goes half an hour without a goal, we might wobble.
Mainly, though, I keep thinking, it’s a very good time to play Croatia, just after they’ve been thrashed 6-0 by Spain in this Nations League competition.
That is why (gulp!)I don’t think we will lose.
We play Spain in Seville on Monday.
All of the above was what I thought before Southgate announced this eleven, a team of big strong men who are not too nimble or fluent in possession.
Ben Chilwell of Leicester wins his second cap at left back.
And Southgate has gone for the speed of Sterling and Rashford to support Kane.
Will Rashford cut inside and and smash a thunderbolt past Dominik Livakovic? He’s a 23-year old who has only played 70 games for Zagreb.
The teams for this weird match are :
CROATIA (4-3-3) : Livakovic, Jedvaj, Lovren, Vida, Pivaric, Kovacic, Rakitic, Kramaric, Modric, Perisic, Rebic.
ENGLAND (4-3-3) : Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Chilwell; Barkley, Henderson, Dier; Kane, Sterling, Rashford.