KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY —- Martina Voss-Tecklenburg purred like the cat who had not only found the cream but lapped it all up. She did not say that she would return to Wembley for the Euro final in 18 months’ time. But the manner in which her team spoiled England’s party said it for her.

This is not to say that Germany were any better than was suggested by a patchy performance for a 2-1 victory secured with a late goal from Klara Buhl. But the potential was evident in this women’s friendly.

“Happy Christmas!” said the former European title-winning midfielder on her way out of the Wembley door. Not a sentiment on which England coach Phil Neville could dwell as their World Cup hangover stretched to only one win in seven games.

Celebration time for Germany at Wembley

A consolation for the Football Association was an England match record attendance of 77,768. But even here was a dampener. Literally.

Wembley had sold 86,000 tickets which would have established a European, hence British, record. Instead persistent rain in north London deterred the more delicate fans so the attendance fell short of the 80,203 who saw the Olympic women’s final in 2012.

Level terms

The pressure of the occasion took its toll.

Captain Alexandra Popp headed an eighth-minute opening goal and Germany threatened a runaway victory before England scuffled back to level through Ellen White just before halftime to make up for a penalty miss by Nikita Parris. Buhl re-established German command as England tired in the closing minutes.

A rueful Neville said: “There’s been a massive build-up to this game and it all adds up. The girls have been fantastic all week but when you step out at Wembley sometimes it hits you so this was a new experience for everyone connected with the Lionesses.”

The wrong sort of experience.

Neville said: “We let other people enjoy the occasion but we wanted to beat the second best team in the world and that was a real killer blow at the end.

“The first 22 minutes and the last eight minutes have cost us. We were not good enough, Germany were better than us in those periods and that’s why they won the game.

“It’s a sickener because of the emotional high the players had gone up to. It’s a challenge and my job is to pick them up to be in the right frame of mind on Tuesday because it’ll be a massive test for us in the Czech Republic. We’ve got to make sure we get the win.”

He agreed that England had been going backward since the Women’s World Cup, saying: “One win in seven matches is totally unacceptable and we need to do something about very quickly.

“I’ve got to take responsibility. I’m the one who picks the team and sets the tactics so ultimately the buck starts and stops with me. Results aren’t good enough so that’s down to me. We obviously haven’t recovered from the World Cup just yet.”

Prize for White

Once the pre-match formalities had been concluded – a remembrance observation plus the presentation to White of the bronze boot for her six goals at the World Cup – it was Germany who were quickest into their stride.

Popp burst down the left in the second minute only to see her drive tipped against the bar and away for a corner by Mary Earps. Five minutes later Popp enjoyed better luck. Kathrin Hendrich crossed from the right and the Wolfsburg forward was gifted allowed all the time and space in the world to head home.

The early pattern had been set. Germany, neat and tidy at this stage, put together threatening sorties down both wings before England, through force of will and effort, worked themselves back into the game.

Beth Mead, on the left wing, was at the heart of the revivalist action. She survived a bad foul which earned Sara Doorsoun a yellow card – it might have been red – then secured a penalty after being tripped by goalkeeper Merle Frohms.

Unfortunately for England Parris blasted her kick at Frohms who deflected the ball high over the bar for a corner.

Serious substitutes

England’s hard work had earned an equaliser which White jabbed home from Jill Scott’s through pass in the 44th minute. That appeared to have been a likely end of the scoring as an increasingly disjointed second half ran on.

The crucial difference may just have been the substitutes’ game. Voss-Tecklenburg not only introduced more subs than Neville but introduced them earlier. Neville brought on four subs but Germany used five – and four of those were fielded before England had thought to introduce even one.

Thus Germany defied the occasion and the rain to raise the tempo appreciably in the closing 10 minutes and were duly rewarded when Buhl capitalised on an assist from Dzenifer Marozsan.

All according to plan for Voss-Tecklenburg.

She said: “It was the game we expected. We started with a lot of pace then we relaxed the pressure a bit and England attacked a lot more and had the penalty which our goalkeeper saved really well.

“The timing of the equaliser was not what you want you want but we wanted to win the game whether it took 92 minutes or 96 minutes or whatever and the substitutes made a big difference.”

Voss-Tecklenburg has time on her side to continue her rebuilding. But here, at least, Germany might wish to switch places with England.

Germany did not qualify to defend their Olympic title next year in Tokyo. England’s players may have plenty of work to do – Neville needs a victory in the Czech Republic on Tuesday – but they, at least, will be on duty for Team GB in Japan.