Euro 2021: Five reasons why England vs. Germany will be must-watch soccer
In the purely arithmetic sense, the soccer rivalry between England and Germany nearly is even. One side has won 13 games. The other has won 15. That does not feel at all lopsided, and yet still there is this revealing quote from legendary English striker Gary Lineker:
“Football is a simple game,” he said following one of the most consequential of those England defeats. “Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes, and at the end, the Germans win.”
They played at the 2010 World Cup. Germany won. They played in the semifinals of the 1996 European Championship. Germany won. They played in the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup (below), the game that inspired Lineker’s quote. So you know the result.
They will meet each other once again Tuesday in the Round of 16 at Euro 2020. This might seem like the worst of all possible scenarios for England, to meet their nemesis so early in a major championship, and yet it is among the more appealing one that confronted them as the final two games of Group F played out last Thursday.
MORE: Complete Euro 2021 tournament bracket
Because the winner of England’s Group D was slated to face the runner-up from Group F in the first knockout game, the Three Lions could have been matched against reigning world champion France or reigning Euro champion Portugal. Only Hungary, ranked 40th in the world, would have been a more appealing opponent, but the Hungarians conceded a tying goal to Germany and were eliminated at the group stage.
So it’s England vs. Germany, probably the marquee game of the Euros round of 16.
There are so, so many reasons to watch:
Through the three games of group play, 21-year-old England forward Jadon Sancho has played a grand total of six minutes. One of America’s brighter soccer voices, David Mosse of Fox Sports and the State of the Union podcast, suggests that never would be the case for such a gifted player if he worked his day job in the Premier League.
“They don’t appreciate what they have there,” Mosse said on last week’s podcast. “Because they view everything through these Premier League goggles, and the fact that he’s over there in Germany doing what he’s doing – to me, he’s always been undervalued in that (England) setup.”
MORE: Euro 2021 top scorer standings
In Mosse’s view, there’s no way England coach Southgate (below left) would be keeping Sancho down if he played for, say, Manchester United rather than Borussia Dortmund.
Sancho produced eight goals and 11 assists in Bundesliga games last season, and 37 league goals combined over his three full seasons as a pro. Mosse said his performances there place him just “a cut below” young European stars Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.
Writing for BBC Sport, Germany legend (and former U.S. national team coach) Jurgen Klinsmann said, “Everyone in Germany is surprised Jadon Sancho has not had more game time for England at Euro 2020 – but they don’t want to see that change on Tuesday.”
England has scored just two goals in three games but finished first in its group with two wins and a draw. Reserve striker Marcus Rashford told ESPN that Sancho could be important in the Germany matchup “because he’s played a lot of football against them … more than the rest of us.” For a team lacking offensive spark, though, Sancho has a lot more to offer than just inside information.
Indeed, we could say that about any matchup in the Round of 16, even Sweden vs. Ukraine. If you’re in it, you’ve got a shot.
But the point here is how favorable the bracket is for the winning team in England v. Germany.
The quarterfinal matchup for either the English or Germans will be the winner between Sweden (ranked No. 21 in the world) and Ukraine (No. 24). From there, it would be a semifinal game against either Denmark (No. 12) or the Czech Republic (No. 43).
The bracket looked truly enticing for the England-Germany winner when it was set after last Wednesday’s games. The upset of the red-hot Netherlands squad by the Czechs on Sunday afternoon made it look like a wide-open door to the final.
Oh, and if the winner happens to be England, the semifinal and final games are slated to be played at London’s Wembley Stadium.
After Germany humiliated Brazil by a 7-1 margin at the 2014 World Cup on the Brazilians’ turf – and went on to win the title over Argentina — the German national team program became the model for the world. After England’s young talent fought into extra time in the World Cup semifinals in 2018, they were seen as an emerging power.
Each has been, in its own way, underwhelming during these Euros.
In a very difficult group, Germany came very close to missing the knockout rounds, only securing its spot when Leon Goretzka scored an 84th-minute goal to tie Hungary and secure a runner-up group finish.
In a possibly underrated group, England held Croatia, Scotland and the Czechs without a goal, but delivered only occasional sparks of offense, including at least three shots that struck the post and the two goals that led to finishing in first place.
But Germany beating England will mean something to a squad searching for an identity as it looks forward to a coaching change. England beating Germany will be celebrated as the first competitive triumph over a major European rival for its young core of players, as well as a tonic for all those past defeats against the Germans in the biggest tournaments.
To find an England win over Germany on one of the biggest stages, one must travel all the way back to 1966, when the English won their only World Cup and did so by beating the Germans in the final. Sancho was 34 years from being born.
Even if Sancho doesn’t get on the field, there will be plenty of stars to see.
England striker Harry Kane was the winner of the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup and is the subject of transfer speculation involving Manchester City possibly paying $138 million to acquire him from Tottenham Hotspur. Young Phil Foden excelled for Manchester City, which won the Premier League and reached the Champions League final, and Man City veteran Raheem Sterling has scored both of England’s goals in this tournament.
Germany’s Kai Havertz (above), who scored the winning goal in the Champions League final for Chelsea, has struck twice in the Euros. Midfielder Joshua Kimmich is one of the world’s most versatile players. And Goretzka’s return from injury could be the spark Germany needs to prevail.
The coach who succeeded Klinsmann in charge of the national team after a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup, Low (above) led the Germans to a runner-up finish at Euro 2008, to the World Cup semifinals in 2010, to the semifinals at Euro 2012 and then finally to the very top of the world in 2014.
The past few years have not been as glorious. Germany exited the 2018 World Cup by finishing last in its group behind Sweden, Mexico and South Korea. It was so close to take the same route home from this tournament.
Now 61, Low asked in March that Euro 2020 be his final competition in charge, though his contract was scheduled to run through the 2022 World Cup. Hansi Flick of Bayern Munich was hired in May to serve as the next coach once this tournament ends.
It is rare for national-team head coaches to serve as long as Low, but the continuity has worked. This is one last opportunity for him to reward the DFB – the national federation – for its loyalty.
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