Hammers Declan Rice helps England to victory as Yarmolenko scores for Ukraine

England's Declan Rice (left) and Croatia's Mateo Kovacic battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 20

England's Declan Rice (left) and Croatia's Mateo Kovacic battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2020 Group D match at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday June 13, 2021. - Credit: PA

West Ham United star Declan Rice helped England get off to a winning start in their UEFA 2020 European Championship campaign on Sunday.

The Hammers midfielder started as the Three Lions beat Croatia 1-0 at a sun-soaked Wembley Stadium thanks to Raheem Sterling’s second-half goal.

Playing in a deep-lying midfield role in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the 22-year-old was his usual efficient self, making a tackle, two clearances and completing 87.5 per cent of his passes.

With Rice shielding the back four and goalkeeper, midfield partner Kalvin Phillips of Leeds United was able to break forward and set up Manchester City forward Sterling for the all-important goal 12 minutes after half-time.

Phillips had earlier seen a well-struck volley saved by Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livaković, while Sterling’s clubmate Phil Foden curled an early shot against the base of the post as England started brightly.

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Andriy Yarmolenko scored arguably the finest goal of the Euros so far in Ukraine’s 3-2 defeat to the Netherlands on Sunday evening.

In a remarkable game, West Ham's Yarmolenko - wearing the captain's armband - produced a late moment of brilliance which served as inspiration for his nation at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

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Having halved his side’s two-goal deficit and inspired them to draw level four minutes later, however, there was to be one last twist when Denzel Dumfries stole in to head home the match-winner for the Dutch with five minutes remaining.

Nevertheless, Yarmolenko’s sensational goal – a majestic 25-yard arcing, curling effort – will live long in the memory, with the West Ham forward having become only the second Ukrainian to score at the European Championship finals after his international manager Andriy Shevchenko.

Incredibly, Ukraine had gone 72 consecutive shots without a goal at the European Championships finals - they last scored in their opening game of Euro 2012, which they co-hosted - prior to Yarmolenko finding the back of the net. 

Yet the strike – which arrived on his 95th cap – brings Yarmolenko’s tally for Ukraine up to 41, now just seven goals behind all-time top scorer Shevchenko, and is likely to see him nominated for Goal of the Tournament come the competition’s end.

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