KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY —- England’s first victory over Germany in a knockout match since the 1966 World Cup Final sent them into the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 and provided redemption for manager Gareth Southgate.
The long-anticipated round of 16 duel at Wembley hung in the balance for more than an hour before being settled by two goals in the last 15 minutes from Raheem Sterling and captain Harry Kane. England will play Ukraine in Rome on Saturday night.
Germany, for whom Thomas Muller might have saved the day, fly home to close one era and open another. Coach Joachim Low had already decided to step down this summer and successor Hansi Flick will need to rebuild without the likes of not only Muller but also Mats Hummels and probably Toni Kroos.
At least for England manager Southgate this victory should lay the ghost of his fatal penalty miss against the Germans at Euro 96.
Continuation in the tournament also rewarded his gamble to switch to a three-man back line and decisive introduction of Jack Grealish in the 67th minute.
The Aston Villa playmaker played decisive roles in both goals, along with attacking leftback Luke Shaw, in front of a delighted 40,000 crowd – the largest at a sports event in England since the start of the pandemic 15 months ago.
Yet Germany had made the much sharper start in what was England’s 300th match at Wembley.
Leon Goretzka had a low shot comfortably picked up by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford then Kai Havertz wasted a free kick on the edge of the box after a foul which cost Declan Rice an early yellow card.
Gradually England shook off their initial nerves and began to contest midfield.
Bukayo Saka, the Arsenal youngster who had been outstanding against Croatia, started to spark on the right. In the 25th minute Sterling, scorer of England’s two goals in the group, tested Manuel Neuer with a 25-yard drive.
The German goalkeeper-captain had to leap acrobatically to his left to push the drive for a corner.
Germany should then have taken the lead on the halfhour. Kai Havertz sliced open the England defence but Chelsea club-mate Timo Werner hesitated fatally which enabled Jordan Pickford to save at his feet.
England recovered their balance and Kane was guilty of moving too slowly almost on the halftime when Germany were saved by a last-ditch clearance from Mats Hummel.
Germany began the second half as they had begun the first and Havertz had a stinging drive tipped over the bar by Pickford.
The game then deteriorated into midfield frustration until both coaches sought to break the deadlock with their substitutions.
England brought on Grealish for Saka while Germany sent on Serge Gnabry for Werner. It was England who benefited with Grealish involved in the move started by Kane and carried on by Luke Shaw which saw Sterling score his third goal of the finals.
The goal was also Sterling’s 17th for England, the same tally as David Beckham.
Five minutes later Germany should have been level. Sterling lost possession on halfway and Havertz sent Muller clear through the middle. He raced forward but, with only the advancing Pickford to beat, scuffed his shot wide.
The Bayern Munich star’s failure proved disastrous because, instead of being level, Germany then fell a second goal behind as Shaw and Grealish opened the route to goal for Kane.
Hence England take the road to Rome, Germany fly home.
Gareth Southgate, England manager: “The players were immense and the fans in the stadium were also incredible. I’ve been here with a full house and I’ve not heard the noise levels of today. They were behind every challenge, every run and the energy was incredible in the stadium so to be able to send them home feeling as they do tonight and know that so many millions at home, after such a difficult year, can have the happiness we’ve given them feels very special.”
Raheem Sterling, England forward: “We knew we needed to put a big performance in against a very good side and I think we did that today. We knew the intensity that we can play at, not a lot of teams can deal with it. The two boys in midfield [Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips] were class – they ate up ground and were just animals in there.”
Joachim Löw, Germany coach: “This is a huge disappointment for us all. We hoped to achieve a lot more at this tournament and the belief in this team was high. In matches like this, it is imperative to use the few chances that you get. Timo Werner and Thomas Müller unfortunately couldn’t score from their chances, so it feels pretty bad that we are out.”
Manuel Neuer, Germany captain: “We had a huge chance today to get past a strong team. We failed to take this chance and are massively disappointed. It was difficult for our attackers to make something work with the long balls we sent forward. Our diagonal passes didn’t work out as well, so we couldn’t hurt England as much as we wanted to.”
England: Pickford – Walker, Stones, Maguire – Trippier, Rice (Henderson 88), Phillips, Shaw – Saka (Grealish 69), Kane, Sterling.
Germany: Neuer – Ginter (Can 87), Hummels, Rüdiger – Kimmich, Goretzka, Kroos, Gosens (Sané 88) – Müller (Musiala 90), Havertz, Werner (Gnabry 68).
Referee: Makkelie (Net).