Jack Grealish was not born when Gareth Southgate missed the penalty that condemned England to elimination against Germany in the semi-finals of Euro 96.‘. An image that haunted the current coach and with which generations and generations of English children have grown up.
The Mannschaft was the coconut that kept them from sleeping. The victory in the 66 ‘World Cup was a beautiful anecdote. They had fallen so many times … The defeat, after going 0-2, in overtime in the quarters of Mexico 70 ‘, the penalties and the tears of Gascoigne in Italy 90’, the bitterness at home at Euro 96 ‘, the 4-1 of the 2010 World Cup … Many disappointments and traumas that had magnified a black beast that they ended up defeating. 46 years later, Wembley saw England beat Germany (2-0). Quite a liberation. Beckham, Ed Sheeran, Prince William … they didn’t miss it. The ‘football is coming home’ of 96 ‘thundered in its stands like 25 years ago. It was, finally, the tune of victory.
The host of hosts is still in play … thanks to Southgate putting Grealish on the line. England regained the three center-backs from the 2018 World Cup – Walker, Maguire, Stones – to put Joachim Lw in the mirror. They limited themselves to defending, pressing and waiting and they still don’t fit in. Germany, with the ball as a punishment, commanded without deepening. Kimmich and Kroos were as good as few decisive. In the first half, he brushed past Sterling … but crashed into Neuer. Like Werner with Pickford. The forward is still denied facing the door. And Havertz, hyperactive, failed to hit the mark. Pickford stopped him.
With Shaker Saka and Isolated Kane, Sterling was the local threat. The Manchester City attacker is another at Wembley. He grew up watching the stadium arch build and wants to build his legend on his lawn.
Germany was comfortable … until Grealish walked in. The Aston Villa midfielder changes the dynamics and the games. His talent and mystique allow it. I connected with Sterling and sparks flew. The winger ripped off an action that went through Kane, Jackie, and Shaw before sending it online. A game ‘made in Germany’, with touches on the edge of the area, which led to the third goal of the winger in this Euro.
Sterling was the hero … and he almost became the villain. He yielded a back ball that Havertz gave to Miller. But in hand to hand I sent her out. It was his moment. The next was not forgiven by Kane. The English captain, who was on the brink of the break 1-0 under sticks that Hummels took from him, headed to the net a Grealish bonbon with the left.
The ‘playmaker’ assisted Sterling against the Czech Republic and helped Kane end his drought. England had already gotten rid of all the ghosts. Lw bids farewell to Germany with defeat. Goodbye to your cycle … and the demons of Southgate and the inventors. 55 years later, they won a final phase crossover to their feared rival. They go to Rome … looking to go home.