Joachim Löw’s side conceded five goals in their three group games, showing Gareth Southgate there are frailties to be exposed in the Germany defence. A change in formation could be key to England’s chances of success, as it would give Southgate the requisite weaponry to make the most of Germany’s vulnerability to the counter-attack.
Germany flood numbers forward, attack with six and press aggressively so hitting them on the counter is a smart option. フランス, Portugal and Hungary made the most of the problems Löw’s defence have exhibited. Switching to a back three, which could become a five, being compact and hitting quickly on the break will be the best way to liberate England’s attackers.
Pace to get beyond the defence will be important for England, which is why Marcus Rashford should be in the starting lineup. Bukayo Saka impressed against Czech Republic but the Manchester United striker has the right attributes in terms of speed and finishing to make a potentially match-changing impact. Having Rashford and Raheem Sterling either side of Harry Kane would allow the England captain to drop deep and have the runners go beyond him, which is similar to what he has done for Tottenham. If you look at the joy Kylian Mbappé had against Germany, when he played down the sides, not to mention the Portugal goal where they countered from the corner, that’s where Sterling and Rashford could be devastating against a creaky defence.
Kane might not be playing at the level he and others expect but the striker is providing a valuable contribution to the team, which is the most important thing. He was instrumental in Sterling’s goal against Czech Republic, something that should not be overlooked. Everyone wants Kane scoring but we want results and he has been part of the wins so far. If he gets the winner whether it comes off his nose, toe or any other part of his body, it will all be forgotten. England want a European Championship winner not a Golden Boot winner, although both would be nice.
England have an extra edge over Germany, as they have chopped and changed their personnel and tactics in their group games. Scouts and analysts will have pored over what イングランド have done in the competition and it will leave Löw guessing to the last minute. We did the same at the 2015 Women’s World Cup where we would walk into team selection and even we didn’t know who or what the manager was going to pick. It was our USP: if we didn’t know, neither did the opposition and therefore no one can prepare for what we are going to do. Southgate has been meticulous and picked the correct team with the right subs at the right moments, so the process is working. This is a competition about getting through seven matches; it is like an FA Cup run, and people rarely remember how the team got to the final.
One consistency for England has been the defence; whereas Germany have been porous, Southgate’s men are yet to concede a goal which is a huge confidence boost to the whole squad. I have been behind the goal during the group matches and I’ve witnessed how the defensive unit has been working and I’ve been really impressed. Kyle Walker is a massive player with his experience and Harry Maguire returning was a boost even if he was a little bit rusty. I would go with John Stones, Maguire and Tyrone Mings and have Walker and Kieran Trippier at wing-back to provide the right balance of rigidity and attacking options. The defence will match Germany’s 4-3-3, knowing their strengths come from crosses in wide areas and will have the skills to combat it. Portugal struggled to contain Germany’s six attackers down the sides so the correct wing-back selection will be key.
Bringing back Maguire had a great impact last time out but I do not believe it is right or necessary for Jordan Henderson to return to the starting lineup, despite the size of the occasion. Southgate will be happy with the partnership of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips; they’re both young, fit and tactically astute, so can adapt to the changes implemented. The spine of the team around the midfield pairing is experienced and keeps them grounded. It could also be invaluable to have Henderson to come on to see a game out.
There is plenty of hype around this game – and rightly so – but the England players will not mind, they are unlikely to pay much attention to it. Not to make anyone feel old but most of these players are too young to remember 1996, let alone 1990, so will not be affected by past defeats. This era of players know how to shut out the noise and not worry what goes around them. This game is not about the past, it is about the here and now.