A quarter of a century on from their infamous encounter at Euro 96, old foes England and Germany renew hostilities at Wembley Stadium in the last-16 stage of Euro 2020 on Tuesday evening.
The Three Lions progressed in first place from Group D to set up a tie with Germany, who managed to claim second spot in the tournament’s group of death.
Desperate to banish the talk and memories of England’s 1996 heartbreak, Gareth Southgate – who has since swapped spot kicks for the sidelines – will oversee at least 90 minutes of football which could either make or break the Three Lions’ summer.
The long-awaited return of supporters to Wembley Stadium seemed to work wonders for England’s rearguard, as Italy were the only other team to advance to the last-16 without shipping a goal, but for their plethora of talent up top, putting the ball in the back of the net has not exactly been England’s forte.
Raheem Sterling’s well-taken winner against Croatia preceded a crucial header versus the Czech Republic – two victories which came either side of a drab goalless stalemate with their Scottish counterparts – but seven points taken from a possible nine was enough to send England through as group winners.
It has now been over 450 minutes of football since Southgate’s side last conceded a goal and they head into their clash with Germany on a nine-game unbeaten run across all competitions, but all four of their most recent victories have come courtesy of a 1-0 scoreline – certainly cause for concern before inevitable fixtures with the continent’s finest.
Whether Southgate opts to keep faith in the 4-2-3-1 or take a punt on his previously favoured three-man defence, one thing is for certain – England simply have to dust off their best shooting boots to be in with a chance of a quarter-final versus either Sweden or Ukraine.
Should England manage to produce the goods in normal time, it would mark the first time ever that the Three Lions have won a European Championship knockout game over the course of 90 minutes, but Joachim Low and his last dance will be out to make England’s 300th Wembley outing a truly miserable one.
It was truly anyone’s game in the group of death comprising 2014 World Cup winners Germany, reigning European champions Portugal and reigning world champions France, but all three powerhouses ultimately managed to progress as a beleaguered Hungary bowed out with their heads held high.
Low’s men were arguably fortunate to only lose 1-0 to France in their opening game, and they had to rely on Leon Goretzka to bail them out of trouble in a 2-2 draw with Hungary, but sandwiched in between those two underwhelming results was a stellar 4-2 thrashing of Portugal, which saw them pip the Euro 2016 winners to second spot in Group F.
Die Mannschaft may not be the force they once were in Rio de Janeiro seven years ago, but their penchant for major tournaments is well-documented, as they have managed to advance to the semi-final stage of the Euros three times in succession since the outgoing Low took the reins in 2006.
However, a continental winners’ medal is still missing from Low’s CV, as the Germany manager witnessed his side fall at the final hurdle in 2008 before back-to-back semi-final finishes in 2012 and 2016, so Germany would do well to replicate the feats of the 1996 champions in the English capital this time around.
Southgate will not need reminding that his missed penalty proved fatal 25 years ago, and the last time that Germany and England locked horns in a competitive fixture was back in the 2010 World Cup – a resounding 4-1 success for the Germans as Frank Lampard still relives his ghost goal – but the two sides most recently drew 0-0 in a 2017 friendly.
England European Championship form:
England form (all competitions):
Germany European Championship form:
Germany form (all competitions):