Of all the thousands of words emanating from camp England in the six dead days since victory over the Czech Republic, few have resonated like those spoken byon Sunday afternoon.
Phillips, the likeable and talentedmidfielder, is not young, at 25, in football terms but he is inexperienced in internationals. He has just 11 caps.
So when he said that his first instinct when receiving the ball in an England shirt was not to make a mistake, it felt telling. Because with England just one big win away from an open run to the final of, this is probably not the time for that.
Kalvin Phillips’ admission he was afraid of making a mistake against the Czechs was telling
A reckless footballer is nobody’s friend but equally the knockout stages of a big tournament are when boldness tends to be rewarded, when big personalities tend to announce themselves and stand out.
Mistakes can cost you, for sure. Just look at how hard Spain made life for themselves against Croatia last night.
But for Phillips and Declan Rice and other relatively green England footballers, it is time to take the next step down the road and you can only do that if you are facing forwards.
Asked if his players must be a little braver on Tuesday night, Gareth Southgate said: ‘Absolutely. We have stressed to the players that mistakes happen. It’s OK. If you are playing forward, and looking forward, you are risking possession of the ball.
A reckless footballer is nobody’s friend but the knockout stage is the time to be bold as England bid to overcome Germany
‘But there is always a balance of finding the right moment, and keeping the ball and make the opposition run.
‘The objective is not to come off the pitch with 95 per cent pass completion — the objective is to win the game and score goals. I think that is always a challenge.’
Before this tournament, much was made of England’s youthful promise. Technically, this is a deeply talented group.
But there was always another side of the coin. It was hard to escape the fact that so many were yet to play summer tournament football.
When Southgate was questioned for adding the injured duo Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson to his squad, his reasoning was actually clear. They are good players with more than 90 caps between them. One, if not both, will start on Tuesday and that is reassuring.
Boss Gareth Southgate has admitted that making mistakes is OK as long as the team play forwards with energy and make life hard for the opposition
Maguire’s through-pass to Harry Kane in the narrow win over the Czechs was perhaps the best played by an England player in this competition. Henderson, meanwhile, understands that there is more to central midfield than tackling and passing sideways.
So far over the last two-and-a -half weeks, we have only seen one side of England. They have been pragmatic and sensible and, dare we say it, efficient and they needed to be in a tight group.
But there is a sunnier, more adventurous side to this team’s personality and if we don’t see a bit of it on Tuesday it could be another very squeaky evening indeed and all the grand pictures painted by Southgate last night will be wasted.
Germany are a little long in the tooth in parts. They are unusually inconsistent and their coach Joachim Low wears the look of a man who has probably hung around too long. It’s seven years since his team won the World Cup and not an awful lot that is good — by their standards at least — has happened since then.
This is a youthful squad of great technical ability but Jordan Henderson’s presence adds much needed experience to the group
Still, Germany have good players and several of them. England’s midfield will find themselves in the company of Toni Kroos. Rice admits he is a fan but the autograph can wait. He must leave his mark.
England’s back three – if that is what it’s to be – will not need introducing to Thomas Muller. And then there are the flying wing-backs Joshua Kimmich and Robin Gosens.
Respect is due, then. But no more than that.
‘With the team that we’ve got here, with what we’ve achieved over the last couple of years, we can’t be afraid of any one,’ said Manchester City defender Kyle Walker.
‘You know, people should be worried of us. But let’s not get too arrogant.
There is a more adventurous side to this team’s personality and we must see it vs Germany
‘Yes, play with a little bit of arrogance. That’s what you need in these tough games but keep our feet firmly on the ground and just prepare as we have done.
‘I think every one of us here can play football. That’s no question. But if you play it with a smile on your face and enjoy the game that we all love, that’s when you get the best out of people.’
Walker is not the type to overthink things and sometimes that works in sport. It was encouraging to see Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka turn and front up opponents in the final group game.
That’s instinct, too, and it won England the match. But neither is expected to start on Tuesday so Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling must do likewise. So must the wing-backs.
Kyle Walker believes teams should be afraid of England and urged them to play with arrogance
If this German team are afforded time they have the quality and experience to beat England. Make them hurry and it might be different.
England captain Kane spoke about his plan to wear a rainbow armband for the game in support of Gay Pride month. It is a lovely understated touch and one he admits he has chosen to copy from Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
England and Germany side by side. It can be done. But once the first ball rolls at Wembley, it must be different.
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