The European Championships this summer have been excellent, in my opinion. The tournament has reignited a love football. I thought I’d lost after the European Super League fiasco a month back.
It’s about to get a whole lot better for football fans with the return of the famous old rivalry between England and Germany on Tuesday at Wembley. It’s an age-old rivalry that goes past sport and inserts itself into historical events and current events.
England, during this tournament, has adopted Italy’s moniker of being the masters of pragmatism and protecting the 1-0 lead. During each of England’s last five games, they scored less than two goals, including a 0-0 draw with Scotland.
On the other hand, Germany has been more unsafe in the Group of death with France, Portugal and Hungary. A loss to France, a win against Portugal, and a draw against Hungary have cast doubts over whether Joachim Löw and his troops can win it.
In this piece, I will highlight the key areas of how England can beat Germany next in Wembley to give the rest of the tournament a scare.
Germany’s best performance of the tournament came at the hands of Portugal. Joachim Löw employed a 3-5-2 system with the two wingbacks Robin Gosens and Joshua Kimmich playing there. Robin Gosens was inexplicably left free over and over again with one goal and two assists. The wingbacks play allowed Germany to bring the Portuguese defence out of shape and have their central attacking players make runs in behind; this was seen with Kai Havertz running into the box.
As I said earlier, the English under Gareth Southgate has been more conservative than most at this tournament. Southgate has set his teams out in a 4-2-3-1 formation with two 6’s of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in midfield.
This, in my opinion, is not an excellent way to play Germany; bravery is the only option if England wants to progress into the next round. The likelihood is that Germany will line out with a back 3 of Hummels, Rudiger and Ginter in a 3-4-3.
England could use this to overcome the Germans’Germans’ over-reliance on overloads in the wide areas. With wingbacks that shut down this space with controlled possession, the English system isn’t always a good recipe man-for-man when you’re coming up against the Germans or the French. However, they have an excellent defensive record so far, and this time it could be different.
The English know that Germany has conceded five goals already in this tournament. The counters may prove lethal in transition. Because Germany plays a back three, they often leave spaces for other teams to exploit. Grealish, Rashford, Sterling Foden, Saka, or whoever plays there could have a field day down either side of the back three if Germany’s wingbacks don’t track back and help plug any holes. Whoever Southgate chooses as his wingback will need to be on it.
England has the capabilities to hurt Germany if Southgate sacrifices conservatism in this game. The critical match-up for me is the midfield pairing of Toni Kroos and İlkay Gündoğan. Many teams have given Toni Kross time and space in the middle of the park to dictate play and decide the game independently. Many people think it’s about the hard yards in your legs, but his hard yards are in his brain. He doesn’t need to hit 20km a game to validate performance.
The solution to stop Kroos is to stick Phillips on Kroos for 90 minutes. Phillips destroyed Luka Modric in the opening game by overpowering him all around. You cut the supply off at the source; this is where England has a great chance of winning the game.
The game should be brilliant content for football fans across the globe. If England has any hope, they have to be brave and go for it; if not, their exit from the final could be one of the most embarrassing to date.