England welcomed their historic rivals Germany to Wembley for the first of two high-profile friendlies for Gareth Southgate’s side. The former U-21s manager opted to give various young players a chance against the Germans, including the likes of Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the starting XI. Given this it was set to be an incredibly interesting opportunity to see if England could translate their recent success at youth level into big senior performances against one most talented footballing nations. Germany had their own young team, which, on paper, looked like it would provide a formidable test for the home side.
A nervy start for a resolute England defence
After a well-respected minute of silence for Remembrance Day the football got underway and both sides had excellent chances to take a dramatic early lead. A risky back pass from Harry Maguire almost put Timo Werner in on goal, but some smart play from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford denied the Leipzig striker. At the other end of the field some work from Jamie Vardy down the left flank resulted in a low drilled cross, but Kieran Trippier couldn’t quite squeeze his shot in from the back post to give England the perfect start. The fast start to the game emphasised the electric tempo and atmosphere that so often defines meetings between these two proud nations.
England’s young players played with confidence and Loftus-Cheek in particular showed off some silky skills. However it was Germany youngster Leroy Sane who came closest in the opening 20 minutes, curling an ambitious shot onto the bar from 25 yards out. The Germans came close again just moments later when Werner went through on goal, but Pickford was equal to the striker’s shot and Phil Jones made an excellent headed stop on the line from Sane’s follow-up effort. That was to be the last contribution of the Manchester United defender however as injury struck, and Joe Gomez came on to replace him.
Squandered chances at both ends
Germany’s squandered opportunity seemed to elevate the tempo of the game even further and it became much more of an end-to-end affair. Trippier and Rose began to see a lot more of the ball down the flanks, while Germany looked to put Sane and Werner in behind the England defence at every available opportunity. It looked as if Mesut Ozil was to be the key to the game as the Arsenal man was playing in a deep playmaker role, meaning that he would often play incisive passes going forward but was also being caught out defensively.
The visitors’ best chance of the half came from a defensive error as Werner pounced on a loose ball and went one-on-one with Pickford, but once again the England shot stopper came out on top, getting down well to stop the striker’s shot. In truth England were slightly fortunate not to be heading into half time down by a goal or two, but they easily could also have nicked a lead just before the break. Tammy Abraham picked up the ball in the box and turned onto his right foot to unleash a shot, but Rudiger just about managed to get the block in and the ball looped inches wide of the post. The opportunity prompted a flurry of half-chances for the home team as the clock ticked down, but ultimately the sides went into the break level, which was a fair reflection of the first half action.
Germany start to dominate in all areas
The sides came out for the second half hoping to break the deadlock quickly, and Vardy almost did just that after another excellent cross from Trippier. The striker did everything right, aiming his header downwards and towards the corner, but Ter Stegen pulled off a spectacular save to deny the Leicester forward. After their slight defensive lapse Germany grew back into the game and started to dominate the possession, but England’s defence stood firm and soaked up all of the visitors’ pressure with relative ease.
Germany’s sustained pressure meant that the home side suddenly became a threat on the break, and a quick counterattack almost resulted in a goal but for some experienced defending from Matt Hummels. On the hour mark Marcus Rashford entered the game and England’s tempo was immediately lifted by the Manchester United man’s arrival. Despite this the home side still struggled to maintain any consistent possession and counterattacking chances were few and far between as Germany started to control every aspect of the game.
The regimented England defence holds firm
The pace of the game started to slow as the clock ticked down and Germany seemed content to pass around the midfield, occasionally looking for a long ball over the top to Sane. Meanwhile England continued to press the ball, but the quality of the likes of Ozil made it hard for the home side to get a touch. For all their possession however the Germans looked relatively toothless in attack, which was perhaps testament to the hard work or both the England players and Southgate, who has stuck with the three-at-the-back system so determinedly. In the end a draw was a fair result, and that was how this game ended on the referee’s final whistle – a stalemate between two of Europe’s top teams with all to play for in Russia next summer.
A cynic would argue that Gareth Southgate didn’t learn much from this game because most of his regular starters were ruled out due to injury, but there are certainly a number of positives that can be taken from this fixture. A number of youngsters had impressive debuts against a talented Germany side and none of them looked out of their depth at senior international level, which is hugely promising for the future of English football. Add to that the fact that Southgate’s side kept a clean sheet against a team that scored over four goals per game on average during qualifying and you have a highly impressive performance to build on before next summer.
In truth the Germans could have won this game but for some excellent goalkeeping from Pickford to deny Werner on multiple occasions. The visitors will perhaps be disappointed with the result, but with many of their own regulars missing and a young side of their own starting this game it was a decent draw. There is little doubt that Joachim Low’s men will be amongst the favourites when they travel to Russia, and they certainly have the players to go deep into the competition.
England: Pickford; Trippier (Walker, 72’), Jones (Gomez, 25’), Stones, Maguire, Rose (Bertrand, 71’); Livermore (Cork, 86’), Loftus-Cheek, Dier; Vardy (Lingard, 86’), Abraham (Rashford, 60’)
Germany: Ter Stegen; Ginter, Hummels, Rüdiger; Kimmich, Gündogan (Rudy, 86’), Özil, Halstenberg; Draxler (Can, 67’), Werner (Wagner, 74’), Sané (Brandt, 87’)
Referee: Pawel Raczkowski
Yellow Cards: Gomez (45+1’), Livermore (59’)
Red Cards: None
England: Pickford 9; Trippier 8 (Walker 6), Jones n/a (Gomez 7), Stones 7, Maguire 7, Rose 7 (Bertrand 6); Livermore 6 (Cork n/a), Loftus-Cheek 8, Dier 7; Vardy 7 (Lingard n/a), Abraham 7 (Rashford 6)
Germany: Ter Stegen 8; Ginter 7, Hummels 8, Rüdiger 7; Kimmich 6, Gündogan 6 (Rudy n/a), Özil 8, Halstenberg 6; Draxler 6 (Can 6), Werner 7 (Wagner 6), Sané 7 (Brandt n/a)
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