England takes the knee before kickoff, just as it said it would, and the cheers outstrip the boos, just as they hoped they would.
The gesture, a (nonpolitical, the players say) signal of solidarity with social justice efforts and the Black Lives Matter movement, has been a staple of European games for a year. But opinions on it at matches vary widely, especially among the teams in this tournament — Croatia did not kneel today — and particularly among England fans.
Capacity at 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium will be limited to 25 percent today, so 22,500 fans. Most of them don’t really know what Southgate is thinking with his lineup, either. But for now they do not care. The teams have emerged from the tunnel.
Rory Smith weighs in on England’s team:
Now, then, we know why Gareth Southgate wanted four right backs in his England squad for this tournament: he intended to play one of them at left back.
Such is the character of any and all discussions around the England team that, regardless of what team Southgate picked for his country’s opening game against Croatia, at least one selection would have been dressed up as brave or risky or controversial, or one omission seen as unwarranted or ill-judged or outrageous.
He could have selected Jack Grealish, but he might have had to leave out Declan Rice. He could have picked Jadon Sancho, but that would have meant no Raheem Sterling. Such is the quality of his resources (in certain areas), he cannot lose. But such is the quality of his alternatives that he cannot win, either.
In the end, Southgate’s big risk was his refusal to take a risk. Both Rice and Kalvin Phillips start, suggesting a slightly more cautious approach than perhaps some observers have demanded. More curiously, neither of his specialist left backs were picked: Luke Shaw starts on the bench; Ben Chilwell gets the day off. In their stead comes Kieran Trippier, the Atlético Madrid right back, playing out of position.
The margins are always fine for an England coach. A judgment call can easily become an irrecoverable flaw. This game will not define England’s tournament; who plays at left back in the opening game will certainly not guarantee either success or failure in July. It may, though, set the tone, for good or for bad. Southgate will hope it is the former.
Croatia’s team contains far fewer surprises and the only real one, the teenager Josko Gvardiol starting at left back, was the result of an injury to the regular there, Borna Barisic. But Gvardiol, 19, doesn’t feel like much of a risk: RB Leipzig just bought him from Dinamo Zagreb and has big plans for him.
The Croatia attack — Rebic up top, supported by Perisic and Kramaric on the wings and Modric from wherever he chooses to go — can work like a well-oiled machine on its best day.
Christian Erikson was in “stable” condition in a Copenhagen hospital, Denmark’s soccer federation said in a statement on Sunday, a day after he collapsed and received life-saving medical treatment on the field during a Euro 2020 match against Finland.
Eriksen had “sent his greetings to his teammates,” the statement said, but remain in the hospital for further examination.
The 29-year-old Eriksen is being treated at Rigshospitalet, which sits less than a mile away from Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, where the game was played.
Eriksen, an attacking midfielder and the creative engine of Denmark’s team, suddenly stumbled and collapsed to the turf in the 42nd minute of a game against Finland on Sunday.
Medical teams, summoned urgently by teammates and opponents who immediately sensed the severity of his condition, worked quickly to stabilize Eriksen on the grass. They continued for 20 minutes as the stunned crowd at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium and a global television audience looked on.
In an effort to protect Eriksen, his teammates and members of Denmark’s staff formed a circle around him to shield him, and the medics, as they worked. Photographs of Eriksen leaving on a stretcher showed him awake.
The match was briefly suspended but resumed about 90 minutes later — with the consent of players on both teams, and only after the Danes had received word on Eriksen’s improved condition. Finland won, 1-0.
Not everyone was able to continue. A few players were in tears as they warmed up for the resumption of play. Not all of them could complete the game, Denmark’s coach, Kasper Hjulmand, said afterward.
“It’s a traumatic experience,” Hjulmand said. “The attitude was, ‘Let’s go out and try to do what we can.’ And then we talked about allowing to have all these feelings. And it was OK to say no if they weren’t able to play. Some of them said that they wanted to try. And I said no matter what feelings they had, it was all OK. You had to allow yourself to try to play the game if you felt like it. And you had to dare to show happy emotions. But it was OK to say no. Because some of them they weren’t able to, they weren’t able to play.”
Hjulmand told reporters that his team would be provided counseling and any other assistance it needs as it tries to navigate the rest of the tournament.
“We will spend the next few days processing this as best we can,” Hjulmand said.
Only once the game, the last thing on their minds, had finished could Christian Eriksen’s traumatized Denmark teammates start to come to terms with the toll of what they had been through.
In the glare of the news media, Kasper Hjulmand, the coach, struggled to hold back tears. In the privacy of the locker room, his players sat and held one another. Some among their number were, Hjulmand said, “completely emotionally finished” by it all: the scene of their fallen teammate on the grass, their thoughts of what could have been, the decision to resume the match.
By that stage, they knew that their worst fears had not been realized. Earlier, the Danish squad had agreed, as they had waited inside the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, that they would not make a decision on anything until they had more details of Eriksen’s condition.
Though it did not seem so at the time, that came — thankfully — briskly. Within an hour or so of watching Eriksen collapse on the field, of rushing to his side, of shielding him from the cameras, a message came through from the city’s Rigshospitalet, not far from the stadium, that Eriksen was conscious. He was talking to his partner and to his father, his agent confirmed to Danish national radio.
UEFA, then, offered the players a choice: they could either complete their first game of Euro 2020 against Finland on Saturday night, or resume it on Sunday afternoon. They had decided, Hjulmand said, “to get it over with.
“They could not imagine not being able to sleep tonight and to have to get on a bus tomorrow and play again,” he said.
Not all of them had felt ready. Simon Kjaer, the captain and a close friend of Eriksen, had been one of the first to reach him after he slumped to the ground. He had placed him in the recovery position, to prevent him swallowing his tongue, and then arranged the rest of the squad to form a protective circle around Eriksen as the stadium’s medical team — as well as Denmark’s national team doctor, Morten Boesen — had tended to him on the field.
Many of the players had turned away, but they knew how urgent it was: Boesen confirmed that, after he had arrived, Eriksen had stopped breathing, and his heart had stopped beating. “When I got there, he was breathing and I could feel his pulse,” he said. “Suddenly that changed.”
Even once the news that his condition was stable had come through, Kjaer did not feel able to continue. He had been one of the first to comfort Sabrina Kvist Jensen, Eriksen’s partner, too. “Simon was deeply, deeply affected,” Hjulmand said. “He was in doubt whether he could continue, and gave it a shot, but it could not be done.” Denmark has said it will make counseling available to those players who feel they need it.
Though the trauma was most clearly felt by those closest to Eriksen, of course, the shock at seeing him collapse reverberated throughout the tournament. Roberto Martínez, the Belgium coach, admitted his team — scheduled to play its opening match only an hour after the Denmark game — had not wanted to “talk about football” as they waited desperately for news of a player many of his squad has called a teammate at club level. Romelu Lukaku, who dedicated the first of Belgium’s three goals against Russia to Eriksen, said he had been in tears.
England’s squad, watching as it waited for its first game today, has plenty of links to Eriksen — Harry Kane, the captain, played alongside him at Tottenham — and had watched in anguish, too. In Italy, where Eriksen plays for Inter Milan, his employers had been relieved to receive a message to the squad’s WhatsApp group from Eriksen, confirming that he was awake. These are just the first steps, though. For his teammates, his friends, and more than anything else for Eriksen himself, there is a long road ahead.
LONDON — There are a lot of things that everybody knows about Harry Kane. First and foremost, there is the fact that he is the captain of England’s national soccer team, a status that bestows upon its bearer the sort of profile unavailable to most athletes, particularly in tournament years. It is part-of-the-furniture fame, royal family fame. Everyone has heard of Harry Kane.
Then there are the goals. Harry Kane scores goals with startling efficiency. He scores goals with both feet and with his head. He scores goals from close range and from long distance, for good teams and bad. He does not really seem to be subject to things like form or confidence. He simply started scoring goals seven years ago and never stopped.
He has scored so many that he is seventh on the list of the Premier League’s career top scorers; with a fair wind, he will be third next year at this time and within touching distance of the record-holder, Alan Shearer, not long after he turns 30. What colors he will be wearing as he does so is anyone’s guess. Everyone has known for some time, of course, that Harry Kane is one of Tottenham’s own, the star of the team he supported as a child. But over the last few weeks, a string of interviews has made it clear that, in Harry Kane’s mind, that might have to change this summer.
But that is where the knowledge stops. Harry Kane is captain of England, he scores a lot of goals and he is about to star in his very own transfer saga. Beyond that, Harry Kane is something of an enigma. It is a neat trick: for a player of his status, and an athlete of his generation, to be as well known as he is and yet not well known at all.
This spring, long before he got ready to lead England against Croatia on Sunday, to attempt (again) to claim his first trophy with England, Kane sat down with Rory Smith of The Times to discuss, well, Harry Kane.
What Rory found is that there are a lot of things everyone knows about Harry Kane. But knowing who he is, or what he is like, is not one of them.
Belgium Coach Roberto Martinez said Saturday that defender Timothy Castagne will miss the rest of the tournament after fracturing his right eye socket during a 3-0 victory over Russia on Saturday in St. Petersburg.
Castagne, who plays for Leicester City in England’s Premier League, was substituted in the 27th minute Saturday after a violent head-to-head collision with Russia midfielder Daler Kuzyaev. Kuzyaev left the game three minutes later. The players collided while challenging for the ball.
The injury sounded eerily similar to the one that kept Belgium’s midfield playmaker Kevin De Bruyne out of the Russia game. De Bruyne has been training alone after having an operation to repair a fractured nose and eye socket sustained in a collision with an opponent in the Champions League final last month.
De Bruyne was left out of the Russia game but Martinez said last week that he expected him to return to full training before Belgium’s second game.
Martinez said an ankle injury sustained by the veteran defender Jan Vertonghen against Russia was less serious, a contention backed up by the player himself.
“I caught my studs in the pitch,” Vertonghen said after the match. “I’ve got a history of ankle injuries, so that’s why I always tape my ankles well. It’s going to be fine.”
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