England's Sterling performance gets Euro bid off to flying start
England launched their bid for Euro 2020 glory with a 1-0 win over Croatia on Sunday, while the Netherlands defeated Ukraine 3-2 in a thrilling Group C encounter, and North Macedonia lost 3-1 to Austria in their first match in a major tournament as an independent nation.
It was an evening of firsts for the home side at sun-baked Wembley.
This is the first time in ten attempts that England have won their opening match of a European Championship.
And Manchester City's Raheem Sterling scored his first goal at a major tournament.
England thus gained a sort of revenge for their 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat by Croatia.
Sterling's sharp finish in the second half was enough for the home side to send the Covid-reduced Wembley crowd of 22,500 home happy.
Sterling justified manager Gareth Southgate's decision to keep faith with him by scoring the only goal just before the hour.
"I always said if I played at Wembley in a major tournament, I'm scoring. I had to score in my back garden and delighted to do that," Sterling told the BBC, referring to the fact that he grew up in the shadow of the famous London stadium.
Southgate said: "I'm so pleased for Raheem, he's had this hex in the tournaments. I felt he was dangerous all day. Right from the start he looked a threat."
England, seeking to end a 55-year wait for a major trophy, are playing all three group games at their London home. If they top Group D they will also play there in the last 16, while London is also the venue for both semi-finals as well as the final on 11 July.
Holland and Austria get off the mark
The Netherlands, back at a major tournament for the first time since 2014, defeated Ukraine 3-2 in a Group C encounter in Amsterdam.
Dutch captain Georginio Wijnaldum put the hosts ahead early in the second half before Wout Weghorst doubled their advantage.
Ukraine equalised with two quick goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk, but a Denzel Dumfries header five minutes from time earned Frank de Boer's side victory.
North Macedonia lost 3-1 to Austria in their first match in a major tournament as an independent nation in Bucharest, despite an equaliser from 37-year-old captain Goran Pandev.
Covid continues to cause concern
The coronavirus, which delayed the tournament for a year, is still proving a major headache.
Portugal defender Joao Cancelo has tested positive for Covid-19 and is out for the rest of the competition, the defending champions announced.
Diogo Dalot has replaced the Manchester City right-back in the Portuguese squad, with the holders opening their Group F campaign against Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday.
The Russian, Spanish and Swedish squads have also been hit by positive tests.
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