While the English media continue to reassure us that this current crop of Three Lions talent don’t suffer from the same mental blocks that sides of old did, Germany will be counting on the opposite being true.
Sure, many of Gareth Southgate’s squad are either too young to remember the Euro 1996 humbling against the old enemy, or simply weren’t born at the time. Not one of the 26-man squad will remember the devastating 1990 semi-final against Germany, with only Kyle Walker and Jordan Henderson born – although both were only weeks old.
This young England squad is, quite rightly, being heralded as a generation that can lead a proud nation to glory for years to come. Jude Bellingham is yet to celebrate his 18th birthday and man of the moment Bukayo Saka was born four days after that famous 5-1 demolition of Die Mannschaft in Munich.
It all makes for great reading in terms of our future chances, but will the youthful exuberance at Southgate’s disposal have the beating of the big game experience that this German outfit possess? Joachim Low will be desperately hoping not.
The 61-year-old is taking charge of his final tournament as national team manager, and while his current squad may not boast the talents of years gone by, they remain a force to be reckoned with.
Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels and Toni Kroos are World Cup winners, having all played the full 120 minutes as Mario Gotze scored an extra time winner against Argentina in the 2014 final. All will be expected to start at Wembley on Tuesday evening, and that experience could prove to be the antidote to England’s energetic youngsters.
Low can also rely on his Chelsea trio of Antonio Rudiger, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, with the London club recently beating Manchester City in the Champions League final. The latter in that trio scored the winning goal as Chelsea lifted their second Champions League trophy in less than a decade, and has continued that form with two goals already in Germany’s Euro 2020 campaign.
İlkay Gündoğan was a losing finalist in that May Champions League final, but after winning three of the last four available Premier League trophies under Pep Guardiola, he isn’t short of that winning mentality that counts for so much at major international tournaments.
The above names, along with the likes of Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Bernd Leno, all have experience of English football, and will know the majority of England’s stars inside out.
Naturally, that works both ways, but it’s a mental battle that you would expect the experienced heads to win over the brash youth in the Three Lions camp. For the sanity of a nation beginning to believe that football is once again coming home, let’s hope not.
But this is England, and this is Germany. We all know how that tends to play out.