In contrast, Jaroslav Silhavy’s side have quickly risen to the top of the group after easing to a 2-0 victory to Scotland during their inaugural game of the tournament.
England had never won any of their opening European Championship games before Croatia paid a visit to a bouncing Wembley last Sunday, as the Chequered Ones travelled to the English capital aiming for a repeat of their 2018 World Cup success over Gareth Southgate’s side.
The Three Lions had the better of the first half without any real penetration in the final third – barring an early effort from Phil Foden which struck the woodwork – but in the 57th minute, man of the match Kalvin Phillips found Raheem Sterling in acres of space, and the Manchester City man prodded home past Dominik Livakovic.
Zlatko Dalic’s men have struggled to maintain their reputation as world-beaters since collecting World Cup runners-up medals in Russia three years ago, and defeat on the opening day sees Croatia occupy third spot in the group with two games left to play – a standing that may yet be enough to progress to the knockout rounds.
Croatia have now picked up a measly two wins from their last 10 games in all competitions, and Dalic has an added incentive to avoid defeat at Hampden Park, as the Chequered Ones have gone 10 major tournaments without losing their second game – winning six and drawing four of their such games so far.
Furthermore, it has been 25 years since Croatia opened their European Championship campaign with back-to-back defeats, but even though they are 26 places higher than the Czech Republic in the FIFA World Rankings, Silhavy’s men are the ones with the wind in their sails.
Scotland fans travelled to Hampden Park with an unrivalled sense of optimism at seeing their beloved nation back on the major stage for the first time in 23 years, but the Tartan Army’s buoyant mood was quickly ruined by the Patrik Schick show on matchday one.
A two-goal victory for Silhavy’s side means that they currently occupy top spot in Group D, but it would be a surprise to see them stay there as England seek to keep their momentum going, while upcoming opponents Croatia can blow the group wide open with victory on Friday.
Schick may very well have already claimed the award for the goal of the tournament, but the job is far from done for the Czech Republic, who are aiming to open their European Championship campaign with back-to-back wins for only the second time ever.
However, the Czech Republic have failed to win any of their previous three meetings with Croatia, and the two sides will be locking horns nearly five years to the day that they played out a 2-2 draw at Euro 2016.