No more years of hurt? Sterling and Kane the heroes as England gain revenge against Germany at Wembley
England left it late but second-half goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane secured passage to the Euro 2020 quarter-finals at Germany's expense, earning a measure of revenge against the team that dumped them out of Euro '96.
Gareth Southgate's side appeared off the pace for much of the opening hour of the crucial round of 16 clash at Wembley Stadium but the introduction of Jack Grealish for the under-par Bukayo Saka proved to be a masterstroke for the English, with the Aston Villa skipper playing a crucial role in both of England's goals.
The first saw Grealish feed Luke Shaw on the left, who fizzed a loss cross into the box for Manchester City's Sterling to score his third goal of the tournament.
Grealish was again the creator just ten minutes laster, this time crossing himself from the left for Harry Kane - invisible for much of the game - to nod a header past Manuel Neuer to double England's advantage.
Sterling's eventual breakthrough, when it came, was England's first real goalscoring opportunity of what had been a tense stalemate up until that point. Germany threatened in the first half, with Timo Werner forcing a save from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the first half.
Kane also had an opportunity to break the deadlock early but couldn't react quick enough to capitalize on a rare mixup in the German rearguard when the goal appeared to be at his mercy.
Germany came close to an immediate riposte following Sterling's opener when Kai Havertz played Thomas Muller through on goal but the Bayern Munich man could only drive his shot past Pickford's left post.
Grealish's outstanding cameo proved the difference though, and by the time he squared for Kane's clincher it was clear that England's steady and solid approach had paid off.
"We knew we needed to put a big performance in," said Sterling afterwards.
"Doing it for your country will always be special and it is definitely a special moment for me."
An inquest into the result will likely follow within German football now that Jogi Low's 15-year tenure as boss has reached its conclusion. Former Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick is set to take over in the coming weeks and will likely be met with a string of retirements - but questions will certainly be asked as to why the national team saw fit to prematurely end the international careers of the likes of Muller and Mats Hummels, only for them to be drafted back into the first team this year after a two-year exile.
Muller, for example, has played very little football with his midfield co-creator Kai Havertz while the same can be said for Hummels and his defensive colleagues Antonio Rudiger and Matthias Ginter.
And it showed.
England, yet to concede in this tournament, will take particularly satisfaction in the victory as it comes 25 years after Germany dumped them out of the Euro '96 competition on the very turf they gained revenge on today.
Southgate, a villain on that occasion when he missed a crucial penalty in the semi-final shootout, now prepares his side for a pivotal quarter-final against the winner of Tuesday's evening game between Sweden and Ukraine.
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