Everyone who watched England play Germany in Wembley Stadium can attest to the fact that the English national football team is looking better than ever. In fact, it’s the fashion in which they won that really surprised everyone.
Led by captain Harry Kane and manager Gareth Southgate, England beat former FIFA World Cup champions Germany, with Raheem Sterling scoring the first goal and Harry Kane scoring the second. More importantly, Kyle Walker, John Stones, and Harry Maguire kept the German strikers Thomas Muller, Timo Werner, and Kai Havertz at bay.
For the fans, this was the first time England had beaten Germany in a competitive match since the 1966 World Cup Final, and the second time since 1968 that England had made it further than Germany in a major tournament. While the victory was celebrated by the likes of the Royal Family, Stormzy, David Beckham, Ed Sheeran and even Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it is without a doubt most meaningful to the people of England and fans of the Three Lions.
However, even the victory had many criticising Southgate, questioning his decision to not start Jack Grealish or Jordan Henderson. It was in fact when Grealish was subbed on for Bukayo Saka that the game began to change tides, with Grealish assisting in both plays that eventually led to goal-scoring opportunities. Furthermore, attention was also drawn to the depth of the English bench, players like Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount, Phil Foden, and Jadon Sancho. It was so agonising that Erling Haaland even tweeted “Time to bring on Sancho”.
While these players warmed the bench, Twitter exploded criticising Southgate and comparing the English bench to an old photo of Real Madrid team-mates Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo (Brazil), Luis Figo, Beckham, and Raúl González Blanco sitting on a bench. While it is unclear why Southgate played a more conservative lineup, it’s becoming clear that these matches are lasting longer with three of the last four EURO games going to extra time.
Hence, with such depth, there is a possibility that Southgate is intentionally holding players so as to play them later on in the game. With prolific strikers like Grealish and Rashford, there is no doubt that putting them on towards the end of the game may result in goal-scoring opportunities. With such talent, prospects really do look good for England, however, like many times before, it may come down to Southgate’s strategy and management.
Looking ahead, England will play Ukraine in the quarter-finals in Rome. Based on their game with Sweden it’s clear that Ukraine cannot and should not be underestimated, boasting excellent talent as seen Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk. If England is to win, Southgate may have to dig deep into his pocket with a new starting lineup to match the pace and tenacity of opponent Ukraine. Southgate stated: “Of course now we’ve got to go to Rome, away from our own fans…A different sort of experience for us and we’ve got to be ready for all of those challenges and changes”. Despite the backlash of Southgate’s management, opponents like Ukraine really present a golden opportunity for England to make it to the semis. Where they can expect to play either Denmark or the Czech Republic.
The takeaway factor here is that the prospects have never been better. With France, Germany, and Portugal out, and a dynamic squad with experience and talent, it’s true: football could be coming home.