England beat Germany to reach Euro 2020 quarter-finals

It ended up being even more, as Gareth Southgate put it, than a moment to cherish. That doesn’t do the manager or the win justice. It was instead a game that produced the most raucous celebrations this ground – and this team – can have seen since 1966, and a genuine cultural event. This was England’s grand coming together again, and it was so fitting that it had a greater crowd for one of the side’s greatest ever wins.

If it sounds easy to immediately refer to that match from 55 years ago after beating Germany, there is a more important point to that, that displays the progress this growing team has made.

This was the first time England had knocked out their great rivals since that cherished year. This was the first time that England had even won a European Championship knock-out game since 1996.

As in 2018, even more barriers – both psychological and significant – were broken by Southgate’s leadership.

As with this tournament as a whole, it was the irrepressible Raheem Sterling that made the breakthrough. New ground was made by the forward continuing to score. Just as significantly, Harry Kane meanwhile rediscovered his spark, finally hitting his first goal of this tournament to make it England 2-0 Germany. A scoreline for the ages, that has so much history.

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Southgate did exactly what he promised. He offered a “a moment that lives with people forever”.

It was after what had been a largely forgettable game, against a poor German team, but that didn’t matter. Nor did all the debates about the line-up. Southgate was vindicated by victory, having crafted a hard-fought win but ultimately a deserved one.

England just had more. Southgate ensured they had enough. The players can now promise more. This may be the release he and the team were waiting for. This might just be what completes them. This might be what this game was building up to. All of what came before now seems mere prelude to this, what might be the great coming-together for the team as much as the country.

What went before shouldn’t be overlooked. It should instead only elevate the story of this team, and illustrate their growth – particularly that of Kane.

Much of the match had not just a battle between two incomplete teams, after all, but two teams who weren’t fully playing to their strengths.

There was even a brief 10-minute period when England seemed to completely cede control to Germany. It was to be the only such period. That was important for reasons beyond the English support’s complex about the opposition.

For all the talk about how this isn’t a vintage Germany, there are some top-class players in there, particularly in attack and midfield. Jogi Loew didn’t exactly put out an approach to get the best out of them. It was all so disparate, and dependent on individuals conjuring something. There were so many moments when Kai Havertz, in particular, had to try and force his way through England’s mass of defensive bodies with burrowing runs. One of those led to one of the few chances of the first half, when Timo Werner was put through. Many would probably see it as another Werner miss, but it was really a fine Jordan Pickford save.

For their part, England looked much better when they played 20 metres higher up the pitch, but this was one of the issues. It was as if the approach didn’t fully fit the line-up.

They had a lot of wide players but no real width. They had a lot of impetus but no real creativity when that far forward. They had Harry Kane but not the Harry Kane that scores and creates so prolifically.

Had he been any way sharp, he would surely have put away that chance just before half-time. It was in fact hard to know how he missed. Having come through from another weaving Sterling run, the ball seemed to bobble up and was just waiting to be hit.

The connection never came. Germany survived, somewhat frantically. Kane persevered, somewhat jadedly. It was if the forward was waiting for that moment to release him.

He was first left in a heap on one challenge, and like he might need to come off. Kane stayed on. The game stayed raggedy. Any quality was only in flashes. The game needed a release as much as Kane.

The managers did seek to force that by bringing on two of their most exciting players. Loew opted for Serge Gnabry, Southgate – to the delight of the crowd – for Grealish.

Instead, it wasn’t any individual inspiration that produced the breakthrough. It was precisely the kind of crafted team play that Southgate would have especially appreciated.

Everyone else should appreciate the fact he kept Kane on. It was the player’s superb touch that set up Luke Shaw, who fed Sterling for a timeless striker’s finish.

It led to a timeless moment, and a sound that will reverberate through the ages because of how it reverberated well outside this ground.

It was raucous. It was jubilation. It was life again.

And there was still more to come. That was after that bit more tension, that made it all the sweeter. Thomas Muller was put clean through on goal – and somehow missed. Kane, at last, would show people how it’s done.

Grealish, the people’s hero, made the people even happier with one fine ball.

Kane finally had his goal. Southgate had his biggest win of all, one that felt even more significant than reaching that World Cup semi-final.

England can now look well beyond that stage for this tournament.

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