ENGLAND 2, GERMANY 0
Could this be the year when football finally comes home after England booked their quarter-final place in Euro 2020 after a memorable and overdue victory against Germany?
It was certainly an evening when Gareth Southgate’s young side came of age with their most notable success and mature performance so far to earn a last-eight tie against either Sweden or Ukraine in Rome.
And in the wake of big-hitters France, Portugal and Germany already eliminated, bookmakers suddenly have England favourites to win the event.
Goals from Raheem Sterling – who else – and Harry Kane proved decisive as England produced a footballing masterclass at a half-capacity Wembley where there was a crowd of about 43,000.
This was their fourth and sternest challenge of the Euros, one in which they rose to with a terrific all-round display as they registered a first win against Germany in knockout football since the 1966 World Cup final.Embed from Getty Images
While Sterling, raised within sight of Wembley, and Kane took the plaudits, it was a team effort to defeat Germany who had been unbeaten in their last seven visits to Wembley.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made two crucial saves when the game was goalless – it was four clean sheets out of four for the Everton stopper.
The Manchester back three centre backs, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Harry Maguire were rock solid with wing backs Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw playing their part.
Kalvin Phillips was the heartbeat of the midfield while Declan Rice provided the anchor.
And at the top of the field, Sterling, Bukayo Saka and Harry Kane worked tirelessly and were rewarded for their efforts late in the game as was Jack Grealish with a decisive cameo from the bench.
Remarkably it was three goals in four Euro games for Sterling and 15 in his last 20 internationals after scoring only twice in his first 45 games while Kane ended his barren run in front of goal.
Southgate said: “I am so pleased to be able to give the fans in the stadium an incredible afternoon and I am sure millions of watchers and listeners at home. We know what the country has been through and to be able to give them a day like today and performance like that is really special.
“The players are incredible. Right the way through the team. The players that came on. They were aggressive with the pressure. We felt that was really important. That is why we changed the system, not to sit back but to be aggressive on their wing backs to make sure that all over the field we could get pressure on then.
“Then I think we used the ball better than we have done during the tournament and the pace of Raheem and Bukayo was a problem all the way through.
“We knew that the tactical problems that the wing backs high causes you. If the players who are evenly matched if you give them a tactical advantage as well that is a real problem. We also felt with the ball we could cause them problems as well.
“These are the days that it’s all about. We know if we pick that system and pick the players we picked and don’t win the game we are dead. You have got to have the courage of your convictions I suppose that was the best way to go. I think the players really took that on board and went with it.
“Somebody just said to me that this is the first time in 50 years that we have backed up a semi final with a quarter finals. These players have to keep on writing those stories. They are having a sing in the changing room and I had to be a party pooper as usual to say ‘look its great but it doesn’t mean a thing if we lose on Saturday’. It is brilliant for everyone to be excited but we are mugs if we think we are in the right half of the draw and we are carried away by all of that. We have to get Saturday’s game right.
“Whoever we play is going to be really difficult. We don’t have our fans we have had with us the whole tournament and today would have taken a lot out of the players both physically and emotionally.”
Sterling said: “It sounds good, we knew we needed to put a big performance in against a good side and we did that today.
“Doing it for your country will always be special, and it is a special moment for me.
“I celebrated and for half a second I thought ‘let it not be offside’. Really happy it went in and got the win.
“We knew the intensity we can play at and not a lot of teams can deal with it. The two players in midfield, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips, ate up the grass and were animals in there.
“We take it game by game, recover and focus for the next one.”
Rice added: “It’s incredible. A lot of people had written us off in the group stage, complaints about the performances, not scoring enough but we want to prove people wrong. With a full house everyone had the fire in the belly to one, knock Germany out and to progress in the tournament.
“It is history, all the players were asked about the past games, but we created history. Gary Neville said these games don’t come round often and it was a pleasure to be out there.
“Maturity comes in, you have had a yellow card and you have to stay composed and focused.
“Raheem Sterling is proving so many people wrong, scoring so many goals. Harry Kane is made for the big occasions, scored the goal that put the game to bed.
“We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, but it is a massive game in Rome on Saturday. For today, the occasion, the fans, the players that were up for it. The dressing room, I have not been a part of a team with this togetherness. We really believe, with the tournament being at Wembley.”
Germany’s outgoing manager Joachim Low was critical of his side’s finishing.
He said: “We didn’t take opportunities of the two great chances we had with Muller and Werner. You need to take advantage of them if you want to succeed. The English team did that. We were not clinical enough or effective enough.”
Southgate went for the 3-4-3 formation that was expected as Saka retained his place in attack for England’s 300th international at Wembley.
Trippier came in for Grealish, the only change from the win over the Czech Republic.
Mason Mount made the bench but Ben Chilwell didn’t after the pair ended their period of self-isolation.
There were three changes to the Germany side which scraped past Hungary in dramatic fashion.
Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane dropped out, alongside Serge Gnabry with all three on the bench.
Thomas Muller, Leon Goretzka and Timo Werner came into the side.
Germany settled the quicker as they dominated possession.
And there was a early let-off for England when Goretzka burst clear through the middle only to be brought down by Rice for which he was booked.
Sterling, scorer of England’s two Euro goals, almost added a third with a speculative 25-yard effort which forced a full-length diving save from Manuel Neuer.
It was just what England needed as they began to grow into the game.
Maguire had a great chance to make the breakthrough in the 27th minute but headed well over from Trippier’s perfectly flighted cross.
Germany’s best opening came when Kai Havertz threaded a pass to release Werner but Jordan Pickford made an excellent block.
England went close in stoppage time when Sterling made a fine run but was halted on the edge of the box by a last-ditch tackle.
The ball ran free to Kane who was about to round Neuer when Mats Hummels intervened to save the day with a timely clearance.
Germany had a great opening soon after the restart when Robin Gosens’ cross was cleared to Havertz whose drive from the edge of the box was brilliantly turned over by Pickford.
England made their first change with little over 20 minutes left when Grealish replaced Saka. At the same time, Germany brought on Gnabry for Werner.
The breakthrough came with 15 minutes left from Sterling who scored his third Euro goal in four matches.
Grealish was involved in the build-up and Shaw crossed low from the left for Sterling to slot home from six yards.
There was a huge left off for England with nine minutes left when Havertz sent Muller clear one on one, but the forward fired wide when it looked as though he could not miss.
It was to prove a pivotal moment in the match as five minutes later England sealed their quarter-final place as Kane opened his Euro goal account.
Shaw and Grealish were again the key figures in the build-up, this time the Aston Villa man crossed for Kane to head home from inside the six-yard box. It was his 35th goal for England.
Germany threw on Emre Can and Leroy Sane, but to no avail while England introduced Jordan Henderson for Declan Rice to provide a steadying influence.