Gareth Southgate has told his players to make history rather than get caught up in it as the England manager insisted previous disappointments against Germany were irrelevant to a squad writing their own stories at Euro 2020.
More than 40,000 fans will be spread around Wembley on Tuesday evening as Joachim Low’s side come to town for a mouth-watering knockout clash under the arch.
For many facing Germany brings back scarring memories of previous meetings, from the 1970 World Cup to the ghost goal in the 2010 edition, as well as the Italia 90 and Euro 96 semi-final shootout heartbreaks.
Getting set for Germany 👊
— England (@England) June 27, 2021
Southgate knows all about such disappointments having missed the key penalty 25 years ago, but his players have repeatedly said in the build-up that previous losses to Die Mannschaft mean little to them.
Instead, the England boss wants his players to focus on writing their stories – the same message he gave on the eve of the World Cup last-16 penalty shootout victory against Colombia three years ago.
“I don’t need to demystify it,” Southgate said of the rivalry with Germany. “The history is an irrelevance for them.
“We’ve got boys born into the 2000s, which is obviously scary but it’s the reality of the group we’re dealing with.
“It’s of no consequence to them what we did in, you know, Peter Bonetti in 1970 and what happened in 1990 and so on.
“Of course, they’re watching that stuff and getting a bit of an understanding of it but it’s not something we’re speaking to them about.
“This team have put down lots of historical performances in the last couple of years, made their own history, made their own stories and this is how they should view this game.
“It’s an opportunity. We’ve only won one knockout match in a European Championship as a country, so they’ve got a great chance to go and be the first team since 1996 to do that.”
Southgate played in that Euro 96 quarter-final spot-kick win against Spain at Wembley to earn the semi-final shot against Germany.
Tuesday will be England’s biggest match on home soil since then, with the Three Lions boss braced for a tough encounter.
“We have to be good enough to beat Germany and a very good German team,” he told ITV.
— England (@England) June 26, 2021
“I think they’ve got at least four World Cup winners, innumerable Champions League winners in that team, so although everybody’s dismissing them, very, very experienced big game players.
“We know this is a fixture that could easily have ended up being one far later in the tournament.
“They’ve come through a very strong qualifying group and we’ll have to be at our very best to win the game.”
England topped Group D to set-up this match thanks to 1-0 victories against Croatia and the Czech Republic either side of the drab 0-0 draw with Scotland.
The miserly defence was impressive but the lack of attacking excitement was a concern, although Southgate was irritated by the suggestion his side had been playing with the handbrake on.
“Well, those things are always our ambition,” he said when asked about playing with more freedom and speed.
“I mean we’ve played four attacking players in the matches we’ve played so far.
“We don’t say to the players ‘don’t play the ball forward’, ‘don’t move the ball quickly’, ‘don’t attack’.
“I don’t think you’d have found any of those messages in our preparation for any of the games, so very often the opposition dictate a lot of the things you’re allowed to do in football matches.
“We know that we want to be better with the ball and we want to move the ball more quickly and we’ve got to build on the solidity that we’ve shown already to this point.”
England have yet to concede this tournament and are prepared to go beyond 120 minutes on Tuesday if the match goes to penalties.
“We have a process,” Southgate added. “We’ve obviously won our last two penalty shootouts, so we had a process that worked for us through that preparation and we followed that same process.
“There’s a little bit more focus on it this week but we don’t start that this week because that would be too late and also we didn’t want to make a bigger thing of it than it is.
“We created a process that works for us. We think the players understand that and we’ll be well prepared if it comes to that moment.”