England played out a largely uneventful stalemate with Croatia behind closed doors in Rijeka to earn the first point of their Uefa Nations League campaign – but manager Gareth Southgate felt they “should have won”.
The whole occasion had an air of unreality as the teams – who met in the World Cup semi-finals three months ago – were forced to play in a mostly deserted, echoing stadium as part of Croatia’s punishment after a swastika was visible on the pitch before a European qualifier in 2015.
England coped well with the surroundings and had the better chances – Eric Dier and Harry Kane heading against the woodwork either side of the interval, and Marcus Rashford producing two bad misses with only Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic to beat.
Southgate said: “The first half was pretty even but we had a very good chance from a corner, which we probably should have got on the end of. They had one from a cut-back.
“They had one reasonable chance in the second half, but I thought, really, we dictated the flow of the game for a long period and the second-half performance was excellent.
“We were pushing and pushing right to the end, so I couldn’t ask more of the players. I am pleased with the chances we created, and we just have to make sure we finish them, which on another day we will.
“It feels like a game we should have won and I think the performance deserved that.”
Croatia, winners when these countries last met, threatened only occasionally and Southgate will feel a tinge of regret his side are not moving on to Monday’s meeting with Spain in Sevilla on the back of a victory.