England scored twice too late to end a 55-year wait to win the knockout with Germany amid scenes of huge tension and elation at Wembley to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.
Gareth Southgate’s team fought hard to get a victory statement that often eludes England. And it was their talisman of this tournament, as Raheem Sterling made the biggest difference in the game.
Sterling, who scored the winners playing against Croatia and the Czech Republic in the group stage, directed a cross from Luke Shaw 75 minutes later to send England fans, and more than 40,000 inside Wembley, to wild celebrations.
The victory was secured by another crucial moment in the four minutes from the captain Harry Kane, who once again struggled to influence the game, headed in from substitute Jack Grealish‘s perfect delivery with his first Euro 2020 goal.
England was also thankful for the ingenuity of Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who has yet to concede a goal in the competition and has saved crucially from Timo Werner and Kai Havertz in each half. At the same time, Thomas Muller missed a good chance to equalize before Kane’s strike.
England will now face Ukraine in the quarter-finals of Rome on Saturday, who scored in the last minute of extra time to beat Sweden.
The biggest result for Southgate and England.
The selection of the Southgate team raised eyebrows when he decided to leave the creative talents of Grealish and Phil Foden on the bench. And showed great confidence in Arsenal’s youth Bukayo Saka by starting him after his fine performance against the Czechs.
Saka was very good, the first spark when England struggled, while Grealish added a very important X when he came off the bench to help bring down Germany eventually.
The final whistle scenes show how important this achievement is in Southgate and England. Digging deep and surviving moments of the struggle to defeat the old rivals who often win. And this may be the biggest and most important victory of the Southgate term.
The last 16 was the round that put England in danger during the tournament, knowing that beating their team could mean a meeting with the ever-dangerous Germany, World Cup winners France or European champions Portugal.
While the Group F minnows Hungary very nearly caused a huge upset in the football world. And in the end, Germany confronted them and Southgate, who must be tired of seeing replays of his penalty miss against them in the Euro 96 semi-final. So now he has a good memory to cherish from this fixture, not to mention a potentially good route forward in this tournament.
England will feel confident but insecure when facing Ukraine. And France’s shocking departure to Switzerland shows that no one can be underestimated. But this victory against these opponents will be of great psychological value as England moves forward.
Kane finally comes in handy.
How important will Kane’s second goal be to Southgate’s captain and England’s hopes of winning Euro 2020?
Kane also looked at the dignity of his world-class personality as he worked to play a significant role as the nerves grew around Wembley. And failing to pounce on a scramble in the first-half injury time and often cut a forlorn figure as he tried in vain to make his mark.
At one point, it looked as if he would need to come out injured, but he recovered. And his role in the last 15 minutes could be just a turning point for a striker trusted by his manager.
In addition, Kane played a part in the opening goal as he linked up with Grealish and Shaw for Sterling to finish the job. But the big moment came with the goal that, in the end, settled this game perfectly.
With great confidence when he entered, Grealish sent the right cross to find Kane within six yards area to head home.
The mixture of joy and relaxation in his expression was evident, as was the delight of his colleagues.
If this is a game in which England’s captain finally wakes up, everyone in the camp knows how can ready and shoot Kane can do at the end of the Euro 2020.
Pickford and Maguire make their mark for England.
England had signs of questioning about their defense ahead of Euro 2020, with Manchester United captain Harry Maguire carrying an injury while Southgate is still working out his best personnel.
Here he switched to defense between three men with Kieran Trippier and Shaw as defenders. And it worked as England kept the fourth clean sheet to maintain their flawless record in this tournament.
And at the heart of it all has been a renewed goalkeeper, Pickford, who has come out on top in Everton’s form to show exactly why Southgate’s faith has never wavered.
Pickford made significant savings throughout the tournament, but the game was the best as he ran from his line to block Timo Werner in the first half. And then showed great agility to turn Havertz’s uphill drive with the scoreline empty later.
Maguire was another important figure and showed why Southgate regarded him as someone he could always rely on.
Now fully recovered from an ankle injury, he has shown great strength alongside John Stones while adding extra size to the set-pieces and his ability to pull the ball out of defense.
These have been two of the biggest pluses in Southgate as he now tries to plan their way through Ukraine.
Germany is facing a new era.
This was the end of Joachim Low as German coach after a brilliant career that brought him to victory in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
He is now replacing Bayern Munich’s Champions League-winning coach Hansi Flick. And this indicates that there is a need for reconstruction.
Germany still has many talented standing players like the elegant Havertz, Joshua Kimmich, and others. But this may have been the last of the hits of old stars like Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos, and Muller.
Muller gave England their biggest shock when he went on a 1-0 lead only to a man who scored so many goals almost unbelievably steer a low finish inches wide.
He fell to the ground in despair, and Sterling did the same with relief, as it was his mistake that created this obvious opportunity.
The German will be back with a lot of talent and a good new coach for Flick, but this team needs to be renewed.
‘We gave people another day to remember.’
England manager Gareth Southgate said, “I’m very happy. But, in addition, I was looking at the big screen. And I saw David Seaman up there for my teammates who played with me at Euro 96.
“Moreover, I can’t change his famous penalty against Germany in the semi-finals. So it will always be painful, but the good thing is to give people another day to remember, and now we have to do it in Rome.
“We talked about bringing happiness to the nation, and this afternoon as it is. The players were the biggest on the team, and the fans were there. It was a great atmosphere, I remember, at Wembley.”