Finally, they’ve done it!
England have beaten Germany in the knockout stage of a major tournament for the first time since the 1966 World Cup final. And doesn’t it feel good?
Raheem Sterling, whose place has been most debated in the run-up to Euro 2020, was the hero on Tuesday as Gareth Southgate’s men beat their old adversaries 2-0, with Harry Kane finally finding form to make the game safe late on.
Before the Euros Sterling was being pilloried. His form with Manchester City was all over the place, and when he was selected by Pep Guardiola for the Champions League final defeat to Chelsea it was seen as the Catalan’s biggest selection error.
Come the summer, it was considered by huge swathes that Jack Grealish should be in alongside Phil Foden and Mason Mount, with Sterling one of the last considered for the attacking midfield positions. But just as he did against Croatia and the Czech Republic in Group D, Sterling made the difference in front of goal as England finally got the better of Germany when it mattered.
While Kane struggled again to lead the line for much of the game, Sterling just found the right place to be when his country needed him. A neat move around the edge of the box had the German defence on their toes, Kane and substitute Grealish each had a hand in it before Luke Shaw’s low ball in behind was swept home by Brent boy Sterling.
It gave England a lead and 15 minutes to hold onto it. Had Thomas Muller buried a glorious one-on-one opportunity to equalise, the same old doubts, the visions of 1970, 1990, 1996 and 2010 would have come to the fore. But this time was different. This time England went for the jugular.
On the break with four minutes left, Shaw and Grealish again got involved, with the latter crossing for Kane to stoop a header beyond Neuer. The pure release of emotion around Wembley was a sight to behold.
For the first 75 minutes it looked like England might freeze when it mattered again. Harry Maguire failed to steer a header towards goal when he should have at least tested Manuel Neuer, then Timo Werner was foiled by Jordan Pickford at the other end. The best chance of the half, though, fell to Kane, who took a very heavy first touch when one-on-one with Neuer and was left watching on helplessly as the German defence retreated to clear with ease.
Early in the second half it was Kai Havertz who Pickford was forced to thwart, tipping over a wonderful left-foot drive with excellent reactions. But England still didn’t have an edge going forward, and even Bukayo Saka, who had impressed in the first period, wasn’t finding any headway.
On came Grealish for Saka, up stepped Sterling, Kane came good, and a brand new page was written in English history books.
The job is not done here. England must go on now and win the next three games, and they're 2/1 favourites to now go on and win the lot. The last time they beat Germany at the Euros, they lost to Romania a few days later and it was all over. Sweden or Ukraine are next, and Southgate looks like a man who will not let the emotion of this one result knock him off course.
Three more, England. But let’s enjoy this one for now. It’s been a hell of a long time coming.