The build-up to the Euro 2020 Round of 16 clash between England and Germany was expectedly dominated by the history of the fixture. Following their 1966 World Cup victory where they had defeated West Germany in the final, England had never managed to defeat Germany in the knockout rounds of a major international competition. Well, until now.
Raheem Sterling – England’s only goal-scorer at Euro 2020 until the 75th minute of the Round of 16 clash – extended his scoring streak and put the Three Lions ahead as Wembley Stadium erupted into a frenzy.
A deafening silence soon followed when Raheem Sterling misplaced his pass and Kai Havertz released Thomas Muller through on goal. Even with John Stones breathing down his neck, the ‘Ramdeuter’, as he’s popularly known, kept on accelerating. Pickford came out of his line to narrow the angle and that proved to be enough as the space-interpreter ended up shooting wide off the far post!
The celebrations in the stands found a new life and a new lease when Jack Grealish’s sweet cross into the box was met by Harry Kane, who had been misfiring in the competition until then. At that point, in the 86th minute of the match, England had reached cloud nine, stealing in a second goal. Prince William disregarded his royal ethics for once and was seen punching the air, Gareth Southgate appeared to have finally found salvation on the sidelines, and David Beckham, seated in the company of Ed Sheeran, was grinning from ear-to-ear.
As the referee’s final whistle brought an end to the match, it also brought with it an end to the curse that gripped England every time they took on Germany. With an easy road to the final looking extremely likely for the Three Lions, they will now set their sights on going all the way and ending their international trophy drought.
We take a look at the major talking points from tonight’s match:
JACK GREALISH DESERVES TO START FOR ENGLAND
Beyond the obvious tactical and quality reasons, allow us to make our case with a timeline of events:
71st minute – Jack Grealish comes on for Bukayo Saka.
75th minute – Raheem Sterling opens the scoring in the match with Grealish involved heavily in the build-up.
86th minute – Jack Grealish assists Harry Kane’s second goal that decides the fate of the match once and for all.
Gareth Southgate employed the three-at-the-back system in the match against Germany. This allowed the likes of Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier to push further up the pitch and hold the flank on their own. It was pretty evident in how much Trippier and Shaw were involved in the final third build-up tonight.
With the wing-backs providing width, the forwards had the license to drift inside and tuck themselves between the central defender and the full-back/wing-back of the opposition side. That is exactly where Grealish excels at. Not only is the Aston Villa man adept with the ball on his feet and can ghost past defenders in crucial scenarios, he only has an incredible sense of movement and can create space for Harry Kane to drift into.
Grealish’s decisions in front of goal are also a breath of fresh air and he makes the most of the chances he gets. England could use his ruthless efficiency and flair in the remaining knockout matches to recreate their 2018 magic.
A COMPLETE OVERHAUL WAS LONG OVERDUE FOR GERMANY
Having conquered the world in 2014 after lifting the World Cup in Brazil, Germany began their downward spiral a long, long time ago. An entire generation left, humiliations were witnessed in the 2018 World Cup and in the UEFA Nations League, and veteran players were kept out of the squad in order to bring a new revolution. Head coach Joachim Low tried really hard to breathe life into a new cycle of German domination with the hopes of matching the glory of the first half of his tenure, but he has failed at every single step over the last few years.
Well ahead of the Euros, Jogi Low had announced his decision to step down as head coach and Die Mannschaft were quick to appoint his former assistant and Bayern Munich treble-winning coach Hansi Flick. However, one would argue that the overhaul should’ve been done long before so that Germany were in a better position to make use of the current crop of youngsters.
In an ideal world, they should’ve adopted a different approach and parted ways with Joachim Low following the 2018 World Cup debacle. Sticking with him for another three years hasn’t helped anyone – neither Low, nor the German national side.
ENGLAND MISSED MASON MOUNT
Along with Ben Chilwell, Mason Mount had to be put into quarantine for 10 days since he came in close contact with Chelsea teammate Billy Gilmour during their match against Scotland. Gilmour tested positive for COVID a few days ago and although the England players have tested negative, Mount had to quarantine as a precautionary measure.
Gareth Southgate decided to start with a double pivot of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in midfield against Germany. As a result, their shape while in possession was heavily disoriented. Neither Rice nor Phillips is a proper ball-carrier and with their wing-backs pushing wide and forward, the task fell on the centre-backs to progress the ball as far as they could. Harry Maguire several forward runs and liked up with Luke Shaw and Raheem Sterling on the left.
Although this did not necessarily prove to be a weakness against Germany, on another night and against a team who are capable of breaking quickly on counters, England could end up in trouble.
Mason Mount is the perfect man for the role. His ability to acquire spaces and glide past defences makes him unique in the middle of the park. He’s also likelier to find an eye-of-the-needle pass for the likes of Sterling and Kane. It goes without saying that the current system could benefit a lot with players like Jack Grealish and Mason Mount starting.
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