Southgate’s luck holds up


With all the talk of not beating Germany in the knockout stages of a tournament since the ’66 final, all the defeats were brought up before and after this victory. But this German side isn’t on the same level as those that put England out of previous tournaments.

This Germany had more the feeling of the side Keggy Keegle’s England beat in the group stage of Euro 2000. They’re not as bad as that team but it’s close. I mean after the last World Cup disaster and their recent run which has seen a number of losses, including a thrashing by Spain and defeat to North Macedonia. It’s been a decline that Low hasn’t managed to stop.

What a way to go out after a 15 year career as German boss. Losing to Southgate.

Again the media are making this out to be the greatest victory ever – apparently The Atlantic actually have a column saying this. Oh this German side got out of the “Group of Death”. Err, yes, a group all the favourites got out of and none advanced any further. Two of ’em didn’t even score and two were playing Switzerland and England.

Germany still had more of the ball, more shots, while only one fewer on target. That’s not the thrashing you’d think from the reaction. Southgate got lucky. That Muller miss. A lot of players getting rave reviews for a couple of seconds of performing from 90 minutes.

So as expected Southgate dropped Grealish, I’m most pleasantly surprised he kept Saka. Trippier was brought in because they needed better delivery from set pieces. Shaw then promptly took the set pieces and showed that Jose wasn’t wrong in describing them as bad. Shaw wasn’t getting forward, he only did so twice really and both times it led to goals. Trippier wasn’t really performing on the other side either. They still seem scared to get up the wing and bang a cross in. The two goals coming from crosses, show what England are missing out on.

Saka again looked and ran forward, unlike others. But he soon wasn’t getting the ball. He’d got Rudiger on a yellow and with more runs at the lump would have got him sent off but as per usual when something is working like that they stop doing it.

Phillips did a decent job in midfield, luckily in matching Germany’s system it meant it was two on two in there and they weren’t outmanned. Rice did reasonably after picking up an early yellow, that wasn’t even a foul never mind a card. If the other player sticks his leg out and trips you in the act of throwing himself to the floor you shouldn’t be punished.

So the pundits are now complaining that Kane didn’t touch the ball in the first half, while also claiming how great Sterling was. Well, you gotta make your mind up fellas. Do you want Kane to stay high and not touch the ball because he’s never passed to by Sterling or do you want him to touch the ball, meaning he’s gotta go searching for it, dropping deep or wide?

It’s one or t’other.

England are just above Finland and Hungary in registering the lowest number of shots per game. A tweet says who needs shots when you have Sterling? Well, yes he got his third goal of the tournament and at that point was the only England player to have scored. But maybe if you didn’t have Sterling you’d have more shots an more than the three goals. Again he was refusing to pass to Kane, which is all Kane’s fault apparently. While running into dead-ends and losing the ball.

Kane had to tailor his game to waiting for rebounds from the next cul-de-sac Sterling ran into. Even here Kane couldn’t win. Pundits saying Kane should have shot as the ball came to him. He was on the stretch, no power in the shot, lucky to get it anywhere near goal. They would have claimed he was being greedy, in snatching at the shot if he’d done this. Being on the stretch it was a difficult ball to control, which butchered the chance, for which he was blamed.

Not only that but the talk of Sterling’s work in other areas of the park never mentions that Nueur had an easy out when England tried the press. Kane and Saka would be on their man while Sterling would be meandering around, clueless oblivion. While Nueuer played the ball out to the German right.

Sterling actually found Kane with a pass in the build up to the opener. Of course Sterling butchered this, well, in his pursuit of personal glory over the team he wouldn’t want to play Kane in for an easy chance now would he? And that’s what the right pass to Kane would have produced. The England captain was wide open on the edge of the D, a ball to Kane’s right and he was in but no, Sterling played it behind Kane. Kane had to then play it sideways to Grealish, who knocked it on to Shaw, who for the first time was up with play, his first time cross was perfect along the six yard box for another tap in for Sterling.

England have put in so few crosses but that’s where all bar one of the goals have come from. Why don’t they do it? What is stopping them getting to the byline? It’s certainly not the opposition.

Seconds later and the game was won. Sterling’s pass to no one – not the first time he’d done this, leading to to a chance – was passed on by Havertz to Muller who was clean through on goal, Pickford stood big but had committed himself to his left when Muller shot to Pickford’s right. Spinning around the keeper saw the ball fly past the post.

Muller. Of all people. He was anonymous for the whole game but come that moment you’d put your house on an equaliser. This being England versus Germany, in a meaningful match. But at that moment surely everyone is thinking England have won this. But it also showed that even with all the clean sheets and Pickford performing brilliantly, it could still turn around.

Yes, Pickford has been excellent. He made a couple of saves in this game, from Werner – no that didn’t work Joachim – and Havertz – who wouldn’t be getting all the rave reviews if he didn’t play for an English club. No, he’s not the new Zidane, as I read one columnist claim. He seems to have taken is ritalin, but isn’t scared of giving his defence both barrels when required. Yup, Southgate got that one right, I got it wrong.

Not long later and it was confirmed, with the second, now yes Croatia and Switzerland had come back from being two goals down in the dying minutes of their knockout games but Germany looked dead and bereft before Kane scored his first of the tournament.

Yet again it came from a cross. Shaw for the second time coming forward, he won the ball in the middle of the park, playing it left to Grealish he put in a cross that Kane had to stoop and control his head to guide past Nueur. Luckily he got it for behind him Sterling was offside again.

It’s amazing isn’t it. Feed Kane and he scores. Don’t give him the ball and he doesn’t. Funny what happens when someone who plays for the team has the ball.

The pundits now saying this will spark Kane into scoring but if he doesn’t get the ball how can it? And as long as Southgate picks players more intent on having all the chances themselves, that won’t happen.

And with Germany gone, that draw looks so good. Ukraine in the next round than a semi against either Denmark or the already beaten Czechs. Anything other than a final appearance would be failure from here. Can Southgate’s luck hold on…

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