LONDON (dpa) – The anticipation in England for the classic is great. “It’s the next Germany,” the Daily Mail headline in its online edition shortly after the final whistle in the quivering match for the German Football Association’s selection in the 2-2 win over Hungary.
On June 29, the Three Lions will face their great rival at Wembley Stadium. After nearly 25 years of failing in the semi-finals of the European Championship on home soil, the German national team achieved one of the most painful defeats in the history of the Three Lions on penalties.
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Before that, Gareth Southgate looked almost always. The body is in a refined suit, hands folded in front of you, looks calm and serious. While fans and the media were on their minds about the potential of the English team even after reaching the second round of the European Championship, the national coach seemed satisfied. Southgate never said it, but his message after the 1-0 win over the Czech Republic could have been: Look here, my plan is working! England plays honestly, but England never loses a game. And now the Three Lions Tournament is about to begin. “The good thing for us is that we are still improving,” Southgate said.
But what can these Englishmen really do? The group’s victory guarantees them to play the Round of 16 next Tuesday at home at Wembley Stadium. Then it gets serious. The headline of “Al Shams” newspaper on Wednesday was, “We are now playing against France, the world champion, Portugal, the European champion, and our old enemy, Germany or Hungary.” In fact, there is now probably a high-profile wait for the British. If Germany finishes their group in second place on Wednesday night after the match against Hungary, a knockout against the English would be perfect.
Saka plays hard
“We are now playing against much stronger teams. But we can gain confidence from this group, we did not concede a goal,” said winger Bukayo Saka, who was named man of the match against the Czech Republic. “No matter who comes, we can go into the match with confidence. Especially since we are playing with our fans at Wembley.” Saka symbolizes the huge attacking potential of England. The professional player from Arsenal is only 19 years old and was started by Southgate in this European Championship against the Czech Republic. Super talent Phil Foden was not even sitting on the bench After all, BVB professional Jadon Sancho earned his first minutes at the European Championships.
Saka, Sancho, Foden or top scorer Raheem Sterling: The Three Lions play great on the attacking wings. And in the middle, Harry Kane is still for sure, even if the captain and striker has yet to experience his best championship. But despite all these unique things, the English have so far attracted attention more simply than fun football. On Tuesday evening in front of the Czech national team, a fan at Wembley showed a poster of his favorite squad: offensive forces Sancho, Kane, Foden, Mason Mount and Jack Grealish were in the starting lineup. Southgate knows this longing. But this does not affect him.
Strong defense as a basis
The 50-year-old doesn’t want a team that puts on a great show, but he does want a team that works in the championship. Southgate closely watched how Portugal won the European Championship in 2016 and France two years later the World Cup: not with fun football, but often with dry victories. Perhaps his greatest achievement to date is the one that has received less attention. While everyone is talking about the attacking talent of the English, the defensive one who was estimated to be fairly moderate before EM has been surprisingly stable. “Do we want England to enjoy the Euros? Or do we want them to win? asked the sports site Athletic on Wednesday.
Defense is the foundation of great success, and that’s what the Southgate Doctrine looks like. The four defenders around their recovering defensive coach Harry Maguire have not conceded a goal yet, and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been solid so far. However, it is also true that England’s defense lines were hardly tested by Croatia (1-0), Scotland (0-0) and the Czech Republic. The first difficult test is now in the round of 16. Southgate knows it, and he’s ready.