It is done. The mission, accomplished. England have beaten Germany in a knock-out match at a tournament, for the first time since 1966. It is done. The mission, accomplished. England have won – actually won, not just progressed via penalties – a knock-out match at a European Championship tournament for the first time in their history.
But it is not done, of course. The mission is not accomplished. For once these hoodoos were banished, these milestones reached, immediately there were new worlds to conquer. The challenge now is to take it further. To take it beyond the quarter-final in Rome on Saturday. To bring it back to Wembley. To bring it, as the song says, home.
But we’ve got the rest of the week to consider that. First, this. First what is undoubtedly the highpoint of Gareth Southgate’s career as England manager – and he reached a World Cup semi-final three years ago, remember. Yet England have reached semi-finals before, and lost, as they did in Russia in 2018. What hadn’t been done was this.
England have booked their place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 after second-half goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane handed them a 2-0 win over Germany at Wembley
Captain Kane headed home from close range late on to make it 2-0 to England after a nervy clash with their rivals at Wembley
Raheem Sterling had fired the Three Lions into the lead earlier on, also firing home from close range for Gareth Southgate
The Manchester City winger fired home Luke Shaw’s cross from close range to give England the late after 75 minutes
Sterling wheels away to celebrate with his team-mates after finally finding the opening goal of the game at a tense Wembley
Sterling was mobbed by his England team-mates as he ran across the touchline to celebrate scoring once again at Wembley
England fans were jubilant in the stands as they celebrated Sterling’s second-half goal after a nervy encounter at Wembley
The German stars were left dejected after falling one goal behind as they desperately chased an equaliser in the game
Gareth Southgate celebrates at the full-time whistle after pulling off another tactical masterclass with the Three Lions
Manchester United defender Harry Maguire roars with delight towards the England supporters as he celebrates victory
England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Trippier, Phillips, Rice (Henderson 87), Shaw, Saka (Grealish 69), Kane, Sterling.
Subs not used: Rashford, Ramsdale, Mings, Coady, Sancho, Mount, Foden, Johnstone, James, Bellingham.
Goals: Sterling 75, Kane 86
Booked: Rice, Phillips, Maguire
Germany: Neuer, Ginter (Can 87), Hummels, Rudiger, Kimmich, Kroos, Goretzka, Gosens (Sane 87), Havertz, Muller (Musiala 92), Werner (Gnabry 68).
Subs not used: Halstenberg, Volland, Leno, Sule, Neuhaus, Gundogan, Trapp, Koch.
Booked: Ginter, Gosens
Referee: Danny Makkelie (Holland)
Not against Germany since 1966 and not against anybody in this tournament, even Iceland in 2016. Southgate had spoken of his generation of players as fearless in the face of England’s sorry history but even he was surprised to discover the European Championship record was this bad.
No wins in a knock-out game bar the one against Spain in 1996, which wasn’t a win anyway but a draw with a successful penalty shoot-out attached. Shoot-outs aren’t games. This was a game. You’ll note the difference.
And what a game. Arguably the greatest since the 4-1 win over Holland in 1996, given the quality of the opposition and its tournament status. Yet England that day only clinched the group. This brings progress to the last eight and a run to the final that sidesteps many of the tournament favourites. The danger, really, is thinking the terrain is easier from here.
Germany have the reputation but there may be better, less storied, opponents to come. England were the more accomplished team on Tuesday. They are the only nation in the competition yet to concede a goal. And when they are threatened, the defence breached, Jordan Pickford has consistently risen to the occasion. He is the unsung hero of this run, although that may be about to change.
Have there been better England teams in recent memory than this group? It can certainly be argued. There was a golden generation earlier this century, do not forget. But they never displayed a gift for alchemy quite like this.
Southgate’s players have turned what many considered to be pretty base performances into a nugget of sparkling wonder. A convincing, deserved win over their greatest rival, over a tournament favourite, over a football nation that has come to feel as comfortable at Wembley as the hosts.
Germany were there for the taking. That feeling grew as the game moved deeper into the second-half. There were moments when Kai Havertz in particular looked capable of inspiring the opposition, but they were becoming fewer. And then Southgate made the change the game, the crowd, the experts, the media, the millions at home, their pets, people who had never seen a football match in their lives, people who weren’t even watching this one, demanded. He brought on Jack Grealish.
Gareth Southgate’s starting line-up sing the national anthem in front of the raucous crowd inside Wembley on Tuesday night
The number of fans permitted for the game in London was lifted to around 43,000 fans as Covid restrictions continue to ease
Germany started brightly and England defender Kyle Walker was forced to head behind for safety after an attack early on
England looked to be in trouble when Leon Goretzka burst through from midfield before Declan Rice fouled the German star
England star Harry Kane is sandwiched between Goretzka and German defender Mats Hummels as he competes for the ball
England forward Raheem Sterling tried his luck from distance in the early stages, forcing a good save from Manuel Neuer
It is not right to say that Grealish alone changed the game. Harry Kane scored one goal and was involved in another. Raheem Sterling scored his third in four matches. Luke Shaw put in a sublime cross. A victory like this belongs to all the participants.
But, undeniably, Grealish played a part in England’s first goal. Undeniably, his cross made the second. And undeniably, England were completely re-energised by his arrival. It was a match-winning substitution in the most literal sense: the match was won when Grealish was on.
What a wonderful goal, England’s first. Sterling began the move with another powerful run towards the penalty area. He had made them all game. Not for the first time in this tournament, he was England’s best player. Sterling laid it off to Kane, whose neat touch found Grealish, who played in Shaw on the overlap.
His cross was perfection and there was Sterling to finish it off – the first player to score England’s opening three goals at a tournament since Gary Lineker at the World Cup in 1986. And Sterling is not even a striker.
The second was simpler, but no less important. Big for Grealish, bigger for Kane because it was his tournament opener and the records show he scores in torrents. The cross was on a plate, but Kane’s movement was outstanding, too. He got in between Germany’s central defenders, left goalkeeper Manuel Neuer no chance.
On the touchline, Jordan Henderson, waiting to come on as a substitute, picked Southgate up by almost by his boots, lifted him and wouldn’t let go. Everyone knew it was all over, even without people on the pitch.
Managers Gareth Southgate and Joachim Low bark instructions at their players from the touchline during the first half
England tried to make the most of their set pieces with Harry Maguire trying to guide the ball back across goal early on
Germany striker Timo Werner used his pace to get away but Jordan Pickford made a super save to keep his effort out of goal
Kane thought he had an opportunity to open the scoring but Hummels and Manuel Neuer did enough to clear the danger
German forward Kai Havertz fired a superb attempt from distance but England stopper Jordan Pickford produced a sharp stop
The Everton and England stopper produced an acrobatic save to deny Havertz from scoring the opening goal at Wembley
Between the goals, a mistake by Sterling almost let Thomas Muller in to score. He broke through, drew Pickford and shot wide. Had that gone in then…actually, who cares? It didn’t. Muller missed.
England have agonised enough about what might have been at tournaments, have replayed misguided penalties, the inch between the ball and Paul Gascoigne’s toe, what if Gordon Banks had stayed healthy or Wayne Rooney stayed on. It was Southgate who declared history bunk to his players. And he’s right. This is about what was. What happened. England 2 Germany 0. A landmark victory. History of this team’s own.
Because it doesn’t take much to make an Englishman feel nervous against Germany but, even if it did, the first ten minutes here would have succeeded. It was one of those passages of play in which the Germans just look smarter. Not more technically proficient, just intelligent in their movement, their use of the ball, the way they operate between the lines.
Even with three central defenders and two midfielders with a duty to protect – and Declan Rice grew into an outstanding game on that front – nobody seemed to know what to do with Havertz and Thomas Muller at first. It was a rerun of the second half in Bloemfontein 11 years ago, when Germany’s wit left England nonplussed and the winning margin stretched to a humiliating level.
After eight minutes Leon Goretzka burst through and, approaching the edge of the area, forced Rice to foul him, referee Danny Makkelie of Holland producing the game’s first yellow card. At that moment the signs were ominous. Yet the innocence of youth got England back in the game.
Did Bukayo Saka even notice how dangerous Germany were looking? If he did, he didn’t care. It was Saka, running at the opposition, that sparked England to life. Others may have reaped the reward from his efforts – Grealish replaced Saka in the second-half – but it was his initial boldness that showed his team-mates what was needed.
There was a tense moment during the second half when captain Kane went down clutching his knee after an aerial duel
Maguire makes a lunging tackle to try and steal possession away from Havertz with both sides desperate for the first goal
Sterling was left unmarked in the box and made no mistake as he fired past a helpless Neuer in the Germany goal
After goals against Croatia and the Czech Republic, Sterling continued his fine goal-scoring form to break the deadlock
Shaw played a superb ball across the face of goal after fine build-up play and Sterling was there to fire into the net
Thomas Muller had a great chance to pull a goal back for the Germans immediately but he missed the target with his effort
The Bayern Munich veteran was left on his knees as he missed the chance to bring the Germans level with 10 minutes to go
England found a way in and, after 16 minutes, Sterling had their first chance, a cracking shot after cutting in from the left, tipped round by Neuer. With Kieran Trippier back in the side, the quality of England’s delivery improved, too, but the best cross of the first-half came from Kalvin Phillips, struck perfectly from the right and met by Harry Maguire, who should have done better with his header, which flew over.
Germany were on the back foot, but always a danger counter-attacking. In the 32nd minute, Havertz put Timo Werner through, but Pickford was alert to it and came out to save at his feet. He made a fine save from Havertz three minutes into the second-half, too.
At the other end, though, England’s striker had been struggling. Kane touched the ball twice in the opening 35 minutes and it was not until he was fouled by Ginter in a dangerous position seven minutes later that there was a reason to note his presence on the field. In the final seconds of the half, though, he spurned England’s best chance.
It was another great run by Sterling, breaking into the box, the ball falling to Kane in an excellent position to finish with his left. For some reason, he decided to try to round Neuer to make sure and Mats Hummels got the ball away. He might do things differently next time. The narrative has changed now, not just for him, but for England.
Kane then guaranteed England’s place in the quarter finals when he headed home past Neuer to spark jubilant scenes
Kane wheels away to celebrate in the corner as England secured a famous result over their old enemies at Wembley
Kane looked emotional on the floor as his team-mates piled on top of him after scoring his first goal of the tournament
Goalkeeper Pickford roars with delight after another superb display between the posts to keep a fourth Euro 2020 clean sheet
England stars take a lap of honour around Wembley at full time as they now turn to the quarter-final clash on Saturday night
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