Home Germany DOMINIC KING: Muller miss was decisive and for once the heartache and early exit belongs to Germany #englishheadline #DOMINIC #KING #Muller #decisive #heartache #early #exit #belongs #toGermany

DOMINIC KING: Muller miss was decisive and for once the heartache and early exit belongs to Germany #englishheadline #DOMINIC #KING #Muller #decisive #heartache #early #exit #belongs #toGermany

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For a split-second it was Bloemfontein revisited: England defenders scampering back in vain, a German forward taking aim and the sickening feeling of impending doom.

You remember how it was in South Africa, 11 years ago, as England tried to stay alive in the World Cup. Germany — slick, ruthless Germany — picked them off in the way a hungry, young boxer takes care of inferior opponents: one-two, bang-bang, you’re out.

Thomas Muller did the damage in that round of 16 game. In minutes 67 and 70, he trampled all over England, turning a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 trouncing. Muller has been outstanding since then, a player for the ages with 28 honours to show for his glorious career.

Thomas Muller missed a glorious chance to equalise for Germany against England on Tuesday

All that flashed through your mind in that split-second, as Wembley momentarily fell silent. 

Raheem Sterling lost possession, Kai Havertz nudged it forward and there was Muller, scuttling away from Harry Maguire. He’s dead-eyed in these situations, a ruthless assassin with a sure touch.

You thought of Bloemfontein and you also thought of another haunting memory, of 1996 when Stefan Kuntz quickly equalised Alan Shearer’s opening goal in that infamous semi-final.

That’s what Germany do, isn’t it? Just when you think a big occasion is going England’s way, they put a pin in expectation. 

They have been wrecking dreams since 1966 and as Muller moved on, his right foot drawing back, there was a need to brace yourself for agony.

He wrapped his foot around the ball, the contact was clean but then came the outcome that was so un-German. His shot drifted wide of the upright and clattered into the advertising hoardings.

There was a need for a double-take. Muller missed? Really?

The Bayern Munich star was 1 on 1 with Jordan Pickford but dragged his effort wide of the goal

The Bayern Munich star was 1 on 1 with Jordan Pickford but dragged his effort wide of the goal

You knew that was the outcome, though, as he curled up into a foetal position. Behind him, Havertz dropped to his knees and punched the floor, as he rose his face was contorted in a primal scream. All around Wembley, the moment was celebrated in a manner that can best be described as frenzied.

‘It’s the knockout stage and every mistake can be fatal and decisive,’ Joachim Low, Germany’s outgoing head coach, gloomily explained. ‘We would have turned it around after Muller’s chance but we were not clinical enough.’

This moment needs describing in such detail because it felt seminal. History tells you that when it matters, Germany deliver. But not now on the noisiest, most raucous occasion since England returned to the national stadium in 2007.

Gareth Southgate got the better of opposite number Low on Tuesday night in the last-16

Gareth Southgate got the better of opposite number Low on Tuesday night in the last-16 

Germany had never lost at Wembley since its redevelopment. Their breathless start suggested they would enhance their record and give Low a few more days in charge before he departs.

In that period, they looked everything you would expect of an ensemble with 125 medals. Leon Goretzka began like a high-speed train careering out of a station, looking at one stage like he would run all over Kalvin Phillips. Toni Kroos, a Rolls-Royce, clipped pinpoint balls forward with grace.

At the back, Mats Hummels — much-maligned — made his first contribution by flattening Harry Kane. Antonio Rudiger did the same. Germany, with Joshua Kimmich bursting forward at every opportunity, were at ease with the atmosphere and the expectation.

Germany head coach Low was left to rue Muller's late miss after their Euro 2020 defeat

Germany head coach Low was left to rue Muller’s late miss after their Euro 2020 defeat

Yet in the 32nd minute, something told you that this contest was not following the narrative. Havertz nudged a pass through to Timo Werner but, as Wembley gasped, the Chelsea striker could only fire his shot into the legs of the outstanding Jordan Pickford.

Like we said, it was very un-German. So, too, was the incident in the 41st minute when Manuel Neuer swiped a clearance to Kyle Walker. Neuer flapped his hands in exasperation. Angry words were exchanged by those in black.

Think of the title fight when the old champion opens with an early onslaught but cannot put the upstart away; the feeling that England were beginning to edge it on points arrived at half-time: they had outpassed Germany (229 to 212) and had more possession (53 per cent to 47).

In the second half, they continued to do everything right. Germany, by contrast, became more ragged, more pedestrian and vulnerable. Low, persistently fidgeting and pacing on the touchline, had no answer. He and we knew that an era was ending.

‘All I can say is in these last 15 years there were a lot of positive things,’ said Low, who departs having won the World Cup, the Confederations Cup and reached a European Championship final. ‘This team, there will be changes but maybe in 2024, these players will be at their peak.’

Maybe so. England’s squad, however, is heading to its peak faster. For once, the heartache and early exit belongs to Germany.


#DOMINIC #KING #Muller #decisive #heartache #early #exit #belongs #toGermany

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