England and Germany to duke it out on penalties!
Perhaps the most anticipated of all the Euro 2020 last 16 matches takes place at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday. England and Germany have had very different experiences in the tournament thus far; the Three Lions under Gareth Southgate have yet to concede a goal, whilst at the same token netting the fewest at the time of writing of any of the remaining nations. On the other hand, Die Mannschaft have been extremely erratic - well beaten by France without the scoreline reflecting that, then crushing Portugal in a very open affair to set up a final pool game with Hungary. The dramatic encounter never swung in their favour, but a late Leon Goretzka strike was sufficient to book their passage. It remains to be seen just which England and Germany will turn up, and they do look very difficult to separate on paper. Read our preview here:
Perhaps in a similar vein to the vitriol Didier Deschamps received at the last World Cup whilst guiding Les Bleus to the trophy, Gareth Southgate has a roster at his disposal most blessed in attacking areas, from dynamic full-backs to creative midfielders to the obligatory wide forwards whilst seemingly putting the shackles on them all. Even so, each area in their own way has performed well, without necessarily having the final product to show for it. Harry Kane, the subject of a possible gargantuan transfer bid by Premier League champions Manchester City, has generally looked understandably fatigued and off the pace after a very long, concertinaed domestic campaign. Doubtlessly though, the head coach will ignore calls to replace him, showing faith in the Tottenham Hotspur hitman to come good just as the challenge for the young side increases. Despite the centre of defence being a concern even prior to Harry Maguire's return from injury, they have not yet come under any kind of sustained threat. Jadon Sancho continues to be overlooked, and it seems unlikely the Borussia Dortmund will make his first start against players he'll be more than familiar with from his Bundesliga exploits. The strategy ought to be to put a very suspect looking back three under as much pressure as possible by bypassing what has thus far been an unexpectedly strong element of Jogi Löw's side - wing-backs Robin Gosens and Joshua Kimmich (with the latter far more used to a central midfield role in recent seasons).
The two consistent, distinguishing features of Germany this summer have been a disorganised defensive line and the unsuccessful shoehorning of Serge Gnabry into having the responsibility of being sole striker. In the latter case, he has a very different setup at Bayern Munich, where the burden of goalscoring is much more widely distributed. In the former case, that was apparent well before Mats Hummels was recalled back into the national team setup. It has not the on-pitch impact fans would've liked when they clamoured for his restoration, first by scoring the own goal which condemned them to defeat against France, and then looking very ordinary against both Portugal and Hungary. Whilst Kane in his current guise might not give him a thorough examination, the likes of Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, and Phil Foden will, and he'll need his compatriots at the back to step up. Kai Havertz has shown flashes of inspiration, and might be relied upon more for goals than he'd have expected - he has two of the true tally of four thus far (two Portuguese players helped them out in the second match). There are options off the bench if things remain deadlocked, but only Goretzka has had an impact to date.
Much has been made once more in the English media about '25 years of hurt' in the Euros after the penalty shoot-out defeat in the semis on home soil in 1996, which ignores the triumph under Kevin Keegan four years later (albeit a largely academic victory). England's squad is stronger as a whole than it was at the 2010 World Cup, when Germany swatted them aside on their way to the final. If anything, they have a slight advantage, but perhaps not the coach to make the best use of that. Time will tell, but bet365 have odds of 6.00 for another game to be decided by the lottery of sudden death between the rival countries.
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