How Croatia became England's new old enemy ahead of Euro 2020 clash

Revenge, redemption and a ‘wally with a brolly’: How Croatia became England’s new old enemy ahead of yet another tournament clash… and England fans had better be careful before singing ‘it’s coming home!’

  • England face Croatia on Sunday as both sides start their Euro 2020 campaign
  • The countries have faced off competitively eight times since the first in 2004
  • Steve McClaren’s last match as boss was Croatia defeat to miss out on Euro 2008
  • World Cup semi final three years ago in Russia was the most high-profile meeting
  • Sportsmail looks at the history of the rivalry ahead of yet another big clash 
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here.

England go into Euro 2020 with expectation from fans with Gareth Southgate’s side one of the favourites to lift the trophy at Wembley on July 11.

To make history the Three Lions will first go up against Croatia, a side who have become their recurrent villain with eight competitive match-ups since 2004.

The young England side face Zlatko Dalic’s experienced Croatia in their first group game on Sunday hoping to banish some bad memories.

Gareth Southgate’s England side get their Euro 2020 campaign underway against Croatia

The two sides have faced off regularly since their first competitive meeting back in 2004

The history that England share with this new old enemy matches that of traditional rivals Germany and Argentina as Southgate’s side prepare to meet Croatia at a tournament for the fourth time.

Croatia have struggled to match the form which took them to the World Cup final in 2018 but Gareth Southgate must keep his wits about him if he is to win the latest bout.

Ahead of the rematch between the two teams, Sportsmail looks back some of the previous matches between the sides which grew the rivalry.

England 4-2 Croatia

The first competitive meeting between England and Croatia was also in the group stage of a European Championship as Sven Goran Eriksson’s Three Lions lined up against the Vatreni at Euro 2004 in Portugal.

England’s so-called ‘golden generation’ put on a vintage display to finish as runners up of Group B behind a Zinedine Zidane-inspired France.

Just as England would do 14 years later in Russia, Croatia raced into an early lead with future Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac scoring after five minutes.

Paul Scholes scored an equaliser as England roared to a 4-2 win over Croatia at Euro 2004

Wayne Rooney announced himself on the international stage with a sensational performance

After knocking on the door for much of the first half, England completed a quickfire double with Paul Scholes equalising for Sven’s side at his last international tournament after 40 minutes.

A young and seemingly unstoppable Wayne Rooney scored his third goal in as many Euro 2004 matches, a bullet shot from long range, to put England ahead on the stroke of half time.

Rooney continued his meteoric rise with a goal in the 68th minute to put the game firmly in England’s hands.

Croatia scored soon after through an Igor Tudor header but Frank Lampard restored England’s two-goal advantage with a cool finish after a trademark well-timed run into the box.

The win matched England with hosts Portugal in the quarter-finals, a game that ended with a familiar pain: a penalty shootout loss to the eventual losing finalists.

England progressed through to the quarter-finals where they lost to Portugal on penalties

England 2-3 Croatia

The first iconic game between the rivals is one that England fans would dearly like to forget.

Needing a win in their final game to qualify for Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, Steve McClaren’s England found themselves 2-0 down within 14 minutes against Croatia.

The lacklustre first half ended with boos from the supporters at Wembley.

England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 after a dreadful 3-2 defeat to Croatia at Wembley

Steve McClaren watched on with his infamous umbrella and dubbed a ‘wally with a brolly’

England’s fortunes looked to change after the break and, after being gifted a goal through a Frank Lampard penalty, Peter Crouch showed great control before slotting the ball in the bottom corner to equalise for the Three Lions.

But Croatia hit back 13 minutes before time with Petric scoring Croatia’s third goal to end England’s Euro 2008 hopes and finishing Steve McClaren’s disastrous spell in the hot seat.

The game is perhaps best known for the photo of McClaren under a large umbrella in the England dugout, with the tabloids dubbing him a ‘wally with a brolly’.

Croatia 1-4 England

Under new boss Fabio Capello, England were drawn against Croatia in qualifying for the World Cup in South Africa.

Enter a 19-year-old Theo Walcott who scored a magnificent hat-trick in Zagreb after coming into the side to replace David Beckham.

England fans enjoyed the match in 2008 far more as a teenage Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick

After scoring in the first half, Walcott scored two more to banish thoughts of Steve McClaren’s limp performances and bring optimism back to England.

Mario Mandzukic scored a consolation goal for the Croatians as he gave England a preview to a far more important contribution a decade later.

Croatia 2-1 England

The first of three matches between the sides in 2018 was the most high-profile match between the pair.

Both sides shocked pundits to reach the World Cup semi-final in Moscow and look to earn the right to play eventual winners France.

Kieran Trippier opened the scoring within five minutes with a stunning free-kick which soared past Subasic in the Croatian goal.

Harry Kane should have made it two when he ignored Raheem Sterling to shoot a close-range effort, which was saved by Subasic.

The Three Lions looked to be on their way to a World Cup final after Kieran Trippier’s free-kick

But Croatia came out on top after Mario Mandzukic netted in the second period of extra time

Croatia rallied after half time and equalised through Ivan Perisic’s stabbed volley, scored after poor defensive work from Kyle Walker.

Mario Mandzukic completed the turnaround for Croatia in the second half of extra time when he seized on a Perisic flick to send Croatia to the World Cup final and break English hearts.

The Croats added insult to injury when they revealed they were motivated by the ‘arrogance’ of the English fans singing ‘it’s coming home’, lyrics in Baddiel and Skinner’s iconic England anthem Three Lions.

England 2-1 Croatia

England got their revenge in the inaugural Nations League season to send themselves to the finals of the international competition.

It was Croatia who took the lead at Wembley with Andre Kramaric’s shot deflecting off Eric Dier to give the Vatreni hope of a second iconic victory against the Three Lions in six months.

But England roared back with substitute Jesse Lingard scoring a tap-in on the goal line after a scramble in the box before Harry Kane poached a second following an in-swinging free-kick to complete the comeback and do to Croatia what they had done to Southgate’s side in Russia.

England got some measure of revenge with a comeback win at Wembley in the Nations League




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