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The Three Lions and the Nationalmannschaft meet at Wembley for a round of 16 loaded with contrasting feelings and painful memories. Both selections are ambitious, but the first round dampened that enthusiasm somewhat. Tuesday evening, one of them will remain at the dock with many questions in mind.
It’s the Euro reunion for England. After crossing swords in Group D against Scotland, its oldest rival, the team led by Gareth Southgate sees Germany stand in its way on Tuesday, June 29, in the round of 16. Another football classic, in short, and also “a great opportunity for this team to write history and offer fans memories”, in the words of the English coach, well placed to comment on this major meeting. .
As Southgate recalled in a press conference, many of its players were not born when the Nationalmannschaft eliminated the Three Lions in the former Wembley Stadium, in the semi-finals of Euro 1996. That sad June 26th. Gareth Southgate saw Andreas Köpke push back his shot on goal and Germany soar to the final (1–1, 6 shots on goal to 5). The memory of this failure and other clashes remains, but the two selections have other worries in mind when it comes to meeting each other.
The attack, symbol of the English difficulties
Announced as a contender for the coronation in this Euro 2021, England delivered a first round half-fig, half-grape. Of course, Harry Kane and his teammates finished unbeaten and first in Group D, with two wins and one draw. But on the ground, they are far from having convinced. The offensive armada was very discreet with only two goals scored, the lowest total among all qualifiers for the round of 16.
Captain Kane, the Premier League’s three-time top scorer, ran into the void and faced the harshest criticisms. Phil Foden disappointed. Mason Mount did not convince. Marcus Rashford only appeared for 57 minutes. Even more famished for Jadon Sancho, the nugget of Borussia Dortmund: he was only entitled to six short minutes of play in the third match against the Czech Republic. Only Raheem Sterling stood out by scoring the two English goals in the first round.
3 – @England have topped their group at a European Championships for only the third time, also in 1996 and 2012. With just two goals scored, they are the lowest scoring side to ever finish top of a group at a EUROs tournament. Economical. #ENG # EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/jn3pxvy5kp
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 22, 2021
Of course, England is at the rendezvous of the eighth. But on the other side of the Channel, the hopes born after the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup gave way in a few days to growing skepticism. The Southgate method questions, the starving playing time granted to Sancho irritates (“We have plenty of good attackers”, eludes the coach) and the services delivered disappoint. The supporters even whistled after the 0-0 conceded against the Scots. They will be 40,000 in the stands on Tuesday, waiting for a completely different face of their selection which has accustomed them to disappointments.
Löw’s tactics divide in Germany
Germany barely survived the first round. Group F, the “death group”, almost killed him. After the inaugural defeat against France (0–1), Manuel Neuer and his team raised their heads against Portugal (4–2) before falling back into their pitfalls against Hungary. Twice led, the Germans were even eliminated until the saving equalizer of Leon Goretzka six minutes from the end of this third match (2–2). After the fiasco of elimination in the first round of the last World Cup, the ax fell almost again.
Across the Rhine, the press and former players are not kind to the Nationalmannschaft. Joachim Löw, who will leave his post as coach after this Euro, crystallizes the critics. The coach recalled the ex-ban Mats Hummels but sees his defense take the water, with five goals conceded in three outings. Even Manuel Neuer came through against the Hungarians. In the middle, debates are heated over the retention and performance of former Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gündogan, as Joshua Kimmich has to play against nature on one side and Leon Goretzka settle for a substitute status.
Lothar Matthaüs, the 1990 Golden Ball never stingy in comments, tackles the midfield built by Löw, where “there are absolutely essential things missing in football in 2021”. The coach defends his team by praising the “formidable character” she has shown to get out of Group F. But it is not sure that this is enough during the knockout phase, away, against the English rival .
England and Germany have faced each other 32 times since 1930, for an almost balanced record: 13 English victories, 4 draws, 15 German victories. Two meetings are particularly remembered because of “phantom goals”.
On July 30, 1966, the English, at home, welcome the Germans to the World Cup final. The score is 2-2 and overtime begins. In the 101st minute, the illustrious Geoff Hurst struck on goal. The ball hits the crossbar, bounces off the ground and comes out without waving the net. There was no video assistance at the time. The English are certain to have scored, the Germans are convinced of the contrary. Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst hesitates for a few moments before allowing the goal. England will finally win 4-2 and will be crowned world champions. Germany, ulcerated, will keep the expression “Wembley Tor” (“The goal of Wembley”), which generally designates an injustice.
On June 27, 2010, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, the two teams met in the round of 16 of the World Cup. Quickly, the Mannschaft led 2-0. But England reacted and closed the gap in the 37th minute. The Three Lions insist, and a minute later, Frank Lampard unleashes a strike that lobbies Manuel Neuer. The ball hits the crossbar, crosses the goal line widely and comes out. The English are euphoric, certain of having equalized. The images are crisp. But video refereeing is still not adopted, and Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda did not see the ball cross the goal line. Equalizer point for the Three Lions outraged. They will be eliminated by a scathing score of 4-1.