England, Southgate’s plan pays off by eliminating Germany from the Euro
In the end, what was amazing was how simple it all seemed. England, with their slow and methodical build, held Germany at arm’s length and, although it took some time to break through, it turned out that Jogi Löw’s side had no reply. Tuesday’s 2-0 win in the Euro 2020 round of 16 at Wembley Stadium looked nervous it took so long to arrive, but in truth everything was comfortable enough for the hosts.
England matches are always played with the baggage of history, especially against Germany. The rivalry may be largely one-sided given Germany’s dominance in matches between the teams since 1966, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an added advantage, at least on the English side. And, of course, it’s not just about football, as the stupid English squad, admitted to a game for the first time since the COVID-19 restrictions went into effect, demonstrated it with their endless repetitions. from the theme of “The Great Escape”.
Perhaps because of that feeling of English failure, the previous match that dominated the buildup was not the 1966 World Cup final, when England won 4-2, but another encounter. at Wembley, the semi-final of Euro 96, when England lost on penalties. and current manager Gareth Southgate missed the decisive kick. And that may have obscured a key part of Southgate’s planning.
In 1966 England coach Alf Ramsey found the 4-4-2 formation with which England would ultimately win the World Cup in a friendly victory over Spain in December 1965. He then hid form for six month, only bringing her out for England’s final warm-up, away against Poland, when he could be sure very few people were watching. For the group stage, he used the more familiar 4-3-3, playing either Alan Ball or Martin Peters plus a winger. England were heavy, but won, without conceding a goal, with two wins and a draw. It wasn’t until then that Ramsey returned to the system he believed would win the tournament, playing Ball and Peters together in a 4-4-2.
After the last World Cup, Southgate went from their 3-4-3 / 3-5-2 hybrid to a smoother 4-3-3. It brought more exciting football, including the 3-2 away victory over Spain in the Nations League, but also made England vulnerable defensively. So last year he went back to the last three. With that form, England beat world No.1-ranked Belgium at Wembley, before surprisingly falling back to four in March. But maybe the move to three has always been the plan, and Southgate was willing to tolerate a lackluster group stage (two wins and a draw, and, for the first time since 1966, a group stage completed without concessions. ) before initiating tournament training. .
If that was the plan, then it was at least in the abstract a good plan. England has too often been caught aiming for utopia in the past, vainly chasing impossible dreams and therefore unable to adapt to specific adversaries. But given that Southgate had pointed out how closely he had observed Portugal and France, winners of the last Euro and the last World Cup respectively, and tried to model England’s game on their pragmatic approaches, there must have been a wave of concern when the two collapsed. in the last 16. It has been an intoxicating and unexpectedly heavy tournament; it was impossible to avoid the idea that Southgate had been caught fighting in the last war. Instead, he and his team knocked out the last remaining team of the much-vaunted death group from the tournament.
After the absurd shivers of Monday, it was the return to a more careful price. England overcame a nervous start to get slightly better in the first half, and only a slightly heavy touch from Harry Kane, who again looked at the pace overall, allowed Mats Hummels to make a vital tackle . Jordan Pickford dramatically reversed a shot from Kai Havertz shortly after half-time, but play then picked up on the familiar England pattern of slowly probing and going nowhere quickly.
But finally the pressure drip said. Raheem Sterling leapt forward and slipped a pass to Kane, who fired him for substitute Jack Grealish. He waited to play an away ball at the perfect time for Luke Shaw, whose low cross was converted by Sterling for his third goal of the tournament. It was also, oddly enough, the first goal England had scored after the 62nd minute in their last 12 tournament games.
Yet despite all the talk about control, there is still an element of chaos. A short pass from Sterling allowed Thomas Müller to score without a fault. His shot beat Pickford, but went over the post, a remarkable release. And that was all England needed. With four minutes to go, Shaw took possession of the ball down the halfway line and slipped Grealish, whose cross was directed by Kane as a wave of relief swept through Wembley.
England, finally, had won their first knockout match in normal times at the Euro. Sweden or Ukraine await you in the quarterfinals in Rome – and beyond, the rest of the way to a potential first European trophy lies at home.
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