SOUTHGATE’S Ecstatic England avenge ’96 with Commanding Win over Germany
A little over 25 years to this day on June 26th, 1996 an English team having got the better of Spain in the quarter-finals locked horns with a confident German side in the semi-finals of Euro’96 at the home of football, Wembley.
I was all of 12 then, finding my feet in life and more so football. Not knowing much about the sport, I sat on the couch with my Dad who as the match went on baptised me into this beautiful game. England and Germany amid plenty of English cheers played out a 1-1 draw with Alan Shearer and Stefan Kuntz registering their names on the score sheet.
The match went into penalties and my eyes popped-out looking at the sheer excitement of this contest. The penalties stood at 6-5 in Germany’s favour as a young Englishmen in Gareth Southgate took the 6th shot which was saved by the German keeper.
The Three Lions had lost amid dejection galore at Wembley and somehow, I also felt very devastated breaking into tears. Little did I know then that this contest would ignite my passion for English football to mould me into a staunch Three Lions supporter.
An ambitious Germany had once again knocked England out of a major tournament which tormented many English fans including me for over quarter of a century. Having said this, our disappointment wouldn’t even come close to what Southgate must have left being the perpetrator of this cardinal sin.
Well, everyone deserves a second chance to mend their misery and Southgate as England’s Manager did precisely that with a devastating 2-0 annihilation of Germany last evening.
The debacle of 1996 couldn’t have been avenged on a more befitting occasion. The same tournament, The Euro Championship in a knock-out game at the same venue amid a 45,000 strong English support after seven previous attempts resulting in tears of torment at Wembley.
So, as my heart fills with joy much like every other English fan, lets dissect this rather eventful game that sent Germany packing akin to Hitler’s forces retreating courtesy a brave Winston Churchill:
Spoils were shared in the first 45 though England look marginally better
I was a tad disappointed to see England play a 3-4-3 formation with seven defensive options including three defenders and four defensive midfielders. It seemed to me then, that Southgate wanted to focus on defence to tire out Germany’s attacking threats and eventually score with more attack minded substitutes closer to the final 90.
In truth, I wanted England to be more attacking from the word go.
As was expected, Germany began the game on a high, mounting forward to put England’s defence under pressure with Goretzka angling a long right footed strike towards the bottom left corner of the English net that was rather comfortably grabbed by Jordan Pickford.
Minutes later much to my surprise, England would show signs of their own attacking flair as John Stones and Declan Rice built up a nice move, aiding the ball to Raheem Sterling whose powerful strike was barely squeezed out by Manuel Neuer.
The resultant corner would see the German keeper pouch Harry Maguire’s header.
What also impressed me was how Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw, the two English wingers were constantly building a head of steam on the flanks as Germany was slowly being put under pressure amid creating opportunities albeit no goals.
On the opposite end though, Die Mannschaft almost went ahead in the 33rd minute, with arguably the best opportunity created so far in the game as Kai Havertz drifted into a pocket of space to offer a fine pass to his Chelsea team-mate Timo Werner whose left-footed strike was fantastically saved by Pickford as he spread his legs to smother the ball away.
The game was slowly coming alive with both teams showing attacking intent contrary to what I believed England would do.
In stoppage time, The Three Lions had their best opportunity.
Raheem Sterling powered inward as he was blocked by Ginter whose intervention gave the ball to Harry Kane. The English captain till then was donning a spectator’s role having done nothing of much consequence as he turned around keeper Neuer, ready to put the ball in before the experienced German defender Matt Hummels made a crucial intervention deflecting the ball away.
As time was called on the first 45, a contest which could so easily have been 1 apiece was yet to see a goal!
Wembley witnesses the Kane and Sterling show much to England’s delight
Germany much like the first half started the second 45 with a positive outlook as a long spell of possession between Muller and Gosens finally paved the way for a rampaging strike by Havertz that was just barely tipped over by Pickford.
England were lucky not be a goal down.
As the game progressed, Germany continued to mount more attempts albeit no goals as England finally broke the deadlock in the 75th minute.
Raheem Sterling stormed in feeding the ball to Kane who crucially offloaded it to Grealish as The Aston Villa captain released it to Luke Shaw who sent it back to Sterling with the Manchester City forward slotting the ball in to give him his third goal of the competition.
More importantly The Three Lions had got their opener in a crucial knock-out game as Wembley erupted with boisterous passion.
Germany continued to fight as Muller came close to equalising albeit hitting the ball wide.
This further fuelled the fire to ignite the English desire as in a matter of moments, The Three Lions would go two to the good, this time courtesy captain courageous, Harry Kane who finally found his mojo with a crucial header from a Jack Grealish cross.
The final nail in the German coffin was hammered by this Kane strike as a relieved Southgate was overjoyed with emotion much like every English supporter at Wembley and millions more watching at home including me.
England had won their first competitive game against Germany in well over 50 years dating back to the 1966 World Cup final.
My heart went out to a dejected Joachim Löw, who looked all but lost as England celebrated. The legendary German Manager had failed Die Mannschaft in his last game albeit his 15-year long career is worthy of every praise with a World Cup win being one of his many accolades.
The elusive Euro Title is now just 3 wins way, starting with Ukraine
With this rather commanding win over Germany, a confident England will now lock horns with Ukraine in the quarters.
Truth be told, with the performance we have seen last evening, I would pin my favourites England as the favourites to triumph in this contest.
So, go on my Three Lions beat Ukraine, and then the countdown to create history will be at two to conquer Europe without much ado!