The European Championships are moving at a brisk pace, with the round-of-16 getting underway tonight. One of the ties to watch out for will be England taking on Germany…once again. Given the shared history between the two nations in football and outside, this promises to be a legacy affair.
— England (@England) June 23, 2021
More so because the current Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate missed the decisive penalty against Germany back at Euro 1996, a tournament of utter heartbreak for the English. Or the fact that England had a fair goal disallowed at the 2010 World Cup which led to more angst. No doubt there will be a lot of emotions inside the stadium and on the pitch. With that tone set, FootTheBall looks at the key matchups that will shape the on-field game.
RAHEEM STERLING VS MATS HUMMELS
The choice to start with the Man City winger was not the most popular one, but it does seem to have paid off. Sterling is England’s only goal scorer so far, with two goals in three games. That is of even more significance in a tournament where the established names have failed to get going.
— England (@England) June 23, 2021
Harry Kane is yet to get off the mark, while Mason Mount and Phil Foden have not yet translated their club form. Sterling is a proven marksman who gets the job done and is heavily trusted by Southgate. Up against him will be the German defence and one member of it will be most at risk.
Mats Hummels’ comeback tour for Die Mannschaft has been a mixed bag. A solid performance against Hungary was preceded by an opening game horror show where he scored an own goal.
🎙️ @matshummels on #GERHUN: "The key for us will be controlling the game, make them run a lot, be patient, but not passive. We need to keep creating chances with our possession." #EURO2020 #GER #DieMannschaft pic.twitter.com/dZU770dOYv
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) June 22, 2021
His lack of pace is something that Sterling will be keen to exploit while the Englishman’s low centre of gravity makes it easy for him to get away. England will look to pair the two up so that Sterling can have a run at the Dortmund defender. Hummels cannot be left isolated if Germany are to stop the in-form winger.
KALVIN PHILLIPS VS THOMAS MULLER
The performances of the Leeds midfielder has been one of the revelations of the Three Lions setup. Phillips has looked extremely assured on the ball, defending his position admirably while joining attacks when required. It was this later facet that earned him the assist for Sterling’s goal against Croatia and an overall man-of-the-match performance.
Kalvin Phillips v Czech Republic:
90 mins played
84% pass accuracy
41/49 successful passes
11.2km distance covered
5 ball recoveries
3 duels won
1 time fouled
Played every minute ✅
Yet to concede a goal ✅
Through to the last 16 ✅ pic.twitter.com/3HOPByNspT
— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) June 22, 2021
His passing accuracy is in the high 80s while his expert positioning helps him to minimize danger from opponents’ fast breaks. Given the creative talents on show that Joachim Loew’s side has, Phillips will need to be wary of the wily old fox Thomas Muller. The Bayern Munich stalwart is a potent threat, sitting just in behind the main striker.
🎙️ @esmuellert_ on #ENGGER: "Having spirit and being willing to contest challenges all while constantly supporting each other – that needs to be our goal." #DieMannschaft #GER #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/ldQnpHwz5L
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) June 26, 2021
Muller is known to draw players out of position, and isolate them which allows others to exploit the open spaces in behind. Phillips has shown a lot of maturity but Muller has been doing his craft for years. If he is able to impose his domination, then England will be in for a long night at Wembley.
ROBIN GOSENS VS KYLE WALKER
The usage of 3-5-2 by Loew has seen an increased reliance on Atalanta wing-back Robin Gosens. His showings so far have not been disappointing. Gosens has been a steady presence in the team, with his finest display coming against Portugal. A goal and two assists in 60 odd minutes made him a household name in Germany and his crosses are sure to cause havoc once again.
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) June 19, 2021
He will be closely watched by Kyle Walker on England’s right who will have a job on his hands. Walker is Southgate’s most experienced fullback and stopping the rampaging Gosens will mean he has to curb his attacking tendencies a bit. Both players love to charge forward and have blistering pace across the turf, which sets us up for an enthralling battle.
— Kyle Walker (@kylewalker2) June 22, 2021
This might turn out to one of the most understated match-ups of the match if things go well, more so because Gosens is still a newcomer onto the international arena. It will be interesting to see how Southgate plans against him, whether Walker will have additional support on his flank or use double teams against Gosens.