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England's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the winning goal in its Group D game against Croatia at Wembley Stadium in London on June 13, 2021.CARL RECINE/Reuters

Raheem Sterling grew up in the shadow of Wembley Stadium as it was being rebuilt, even getting a tattoo of its famous arch on his left forearm.

Now playing for his country at the iconic venue, he used his right foot to give England the start it had been longing for at the European Championship.

The winger’s goal – his first in a tournament in his 13th match through four competitions – gave England a 1-0 win over Croatia on Sunday in its opening game of the Euros.

“I always said to myself if I come here, growing up two minutes down the road, I’ve got to score,” Sterling said. “It’s a great feeling doing it.”

Christian Eriksen sends ‘his greetings’ to teammates after collapse

England overcame its opening-game stumbling block, finally making a winning start to the continental tournament in its 10th appearance.

Far more comfortable than in the loss to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, this was an England side packed with youthful debutants.

Seventeen-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham, who plays in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, became the youngest-ever player to appear at a European Championship when he came on in the 82nd minute to replace captain Harry Kane. The previous record had been held by Jetro Willems, who was 18 when he played for the Netherlands at Euro 2012.

Sterling, still only 26, is now England’s most experienced tournament player and entrusted by coach Gareth Southgate despite struggling for game time at Manchester City in recent months.

After only scoring once in his previous 13 appearances for City and England, he found the breakthrough against Croatia in the 57th minute. It was the vision of Kalvin Phillips, one of five England starters making their tournament debut, that created the opening.

“He brings a lot of energy to the team,” Sterling said. “He’s always in the faces of the opposition and uses the ball well.”

The Leeds midfielder shook off challenges before releasing Sterling, who slipped a shot into the net via a touch off Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovi.

The sparkling moment for Sterling came two days after he was named in the Queen’s birthday honours list for his campaigning against racial injustice.

But at the first England game at Wembley with fans since 2019, there was a sour start when players taking a knee were jeered by their own fans. That was despite pleas from the England team to respect the anti-racism gesture.

There was a more unified atmosphere among the pandemic-restricted crowd of about 20,000 at the end when “Football’s coming” home was sung from the team’s Three Lions anthem while being applauded by the players.

The England players, who next face Scotland on Friday in Group D at Wembley, couldn’t wait to shield from the heat of around 30 C on a rare sweltering day in England.

“It’s not conditions we’re used to and we dug in as a team,” Sterling said. “It’s been a long season for me. I couldn’t wait to get started with England and I knew it would be a positive one.”

Subs score late to give Austria win over North Macedonia

The Austrians finally earned a victory at the European Championship, getting the goals they needed from the bench. Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic both came on as substitutes and scored late to help Austria beat North Macedonia 3-1 in Group C. “Congratulations to the lads, they wrote history tonight,” Austria coach Franco Foda said. “The substitutions were important, that’s why you have players on the bench. “Gregortisch and Arnautovic gave the team a new impulse.” It was Austria’s first win at a major soccer tournament in 31 years and its first at the European Championship. Austria captain David Alaba set up the winning goal for Gregoritsch, curling in a perfect cross in the 78th minute. Arnautovic then collected a backheel flick from Konrad Leimer before calmly rounding goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski and scoring the final goal with a minute to go.

Dumfries scores as Netherlands tops Ukraine 3-2

Denzel Dumfries made up for an earlier mistake by heading in an 85th-minute winning goal, giving the Netherlands a 3-2 victory over Ukraine at the European Championship. Dumfries missed an open header in the first half, but he converted when the team needed it most, heading in a cross from Nathan Ake only minutes after his team had squandered a two-goal lead. The Dutch were playing in their first major soccer tournament in seven years. The last time was at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when they reached the semi-finals. Georginio Wijnaldum put the 1988 European champions in the lead in the 52nd minute, and Wout Weghorst made it 2-0 in the 59th. But Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko curled a shot over Maarten Stekelenburg in the 75th minute and Roman Yaremchuk dived in front of Weghorst to head in a free kick from the left four minutes later. Ukraine, appearing in its third European Championship, has only won one match and has never progressed out of the group stage.