England dodge ‘Group of Death’

England will not have to do too much research on their Euro 2020 group-stage opponents after being drawn against two teams they have played in the last 18 months.

Gareth Southgate’s men will face Croatia, who knocked them out of the World Cup in Russia last year and whom they faced twice in the UEFA Nations League.

They will at least go into that game with some good memories of playing Croatia after Harry Kane’s late goal gave them a 2-1 win at Wembley in November last year.

The same cannot be said when they face Czech Republic, whom they did thrash 5-0 on home soil but in their last meeting out in Prague it was Zdenek Ondrasek who scored an 85th-minute winner to seal an upset victory.

But England will have been glad to avoid the likes of France and Portugal, reigning world and European champions respectively, who were drawn into the ‘Group of Death’ with Germany.

England will also have the advantage of playing at home with all three games at Wembley, something Southgate was keen to accentuate.

“I’m never sure whether it’s a good draw. We have played two of the teams before and for us to play at Wembley is something special. We are looking forward to the tournament,” Southgate said.

“We know the quality of [Croatia’s] midfielders. That’s a top-level fixture. I actually had a picture with Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic before. He wanted to be in London so that’s interesting from their point of view.

“We like so many of our young players that are emerging. Our team for the last two qualifiers were extremely young so we need to make sure we get the balance right.

“Sometimes, other coaches try to draw you in. I’ve been in the game long enough to know how it works.

“There are 8-10 big countries. The margins are really, really fine.”

The final member of England’s group will be decided by the results of a play-off between Scotland, Norway, Israel and Serbia. – Eurosport

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