When the line-ups were released for England vs Croatia many eyebrows were raised when Kalvin Phillips was in the starting XI. The Leeds midfielder has had a good season but many expected Gareth Southgate to start a more attacking player like Jack Grealish, especially after his performances in the warmup friendlies.
However, Southgate’s selection was proved right as Phillip’s put in a man of the match performance helping England to dominate the midfield not just by snuffing out counter attacks but also using his unbelievable passing range to hurt the Croatian defence. It was he who drove at the Croatian backline and then calmly slipped in Raheem Sterling to net the only goal of the game and showed us why Leeds fans have dubbed him the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo.’
His passing throughout the 90 minutes was nothing short of sensational with a 94% pass accuracy and all of his long passes finding their target. He ran the show from midfield controlling the game from the first minute to the last and when he was tasked with winning the ball back outside his own defensive third, he managed this six times throughout the game and as the match went on, he never seemed to tire, always pressing until the final whistle.
This heroic performance from the 25-year-old has surely opened the eyes of football fans of how good he really is especially when you consider who he was matched up against, Luka Modric, a Ballon D’or winner in 2018, Mateo Kovacic, a midfield maestro, and European Champion with Chelsea and finally Marcelo Brozovic, an enforcer in Inter Milan’s Scudetto winning side.
The ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ certainly lived up to his nickname and now many England fans will be looking to see if he can recreate this type of performance later down the line, and if he can, who’s to say he can’t be the midfield general we need to take England to glory this summer.