Former England goalkeeper David Seaman believes manager Gareth Southgate got his tactics “spot on” in Tuesday’s memorable victory over Germany.
England beat their old rivals in a tournament knockout game for the first time since 1966 as they reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 with a 2-0 win at Wembley.
Southgate attracted criticism by switching from a back four to a back five for the game, with the manager himself suggesting he would have been “dead” had things gone wrong.
But after victory was secured with second-half goals from Raheem Sterling and captain Harry Kane, Southgate’s decisions were fully vindicated.
Seaman, a team-mate of Southgate when England reached the semi-finals of Euro 96, felt the formation not only offered extra defensive reassurance when required, but provided an attacking option via the wing-backs.
Seaman told Sky Sports News: “I think that is what it was designed to do – not let them impose on us and make sure that we do push them back and it did work.
“I remember watching the second half and I could see Luke Shaw on the halfway line, or even in the Germany half, when the ball was down our end. I was thinking, ‘This can’t be right’ – but it was dead right. Gareth had got it spot on.
“It was great to see they got that formation right straight away. It’s all positive going forward, going into the next game against Ukraine.
“Now we’re all asking questions, will he play three or four at the back – we’ll just say, ‘We don’t care, you know what you’re doing Gareth, do what you want’.”
England will play Ukraine in their last-eight tie in Rome on Saturday with the winners then facing Denmark or the Czech Republic for a place in the final.
Ukraine got through after digging deep to see off Sweden 2-1 with a winner in time added on at the end of extra time and Seaman feels they are not to be underestimated.
He said: “They looked strong, even in extra time. We have to be aware of that. We have to treat them with respect.
“It will be a hard game, no doubt about that, but if we play to our best I feel we have got enough to get us through to the semi-final.
“I feel there is more to come, that is the beauty of this England team and the squad, there is so much talent there that you always feel there is more to come.”
World Cup winner George Cohen believes England now have a momentum that could be hard to stop.
Cohen, a member of England’s triumphant team in 1966, told talkSPORT: “I find it very difficult to believe we can be beaten now although, obviously, I could be completely wrong on that!
“Ukraine are not a bad side but I can’t see them beating us. On that form last night that’s probably the best I’ve seen us play for a long, long time.”
Another former England international, John Barnes, has however warned against getting carried away and looking too far ahead.
Barnes said on talkSPORT: “I’m dreaming about the semi-final and if we can beat Ukraine. I never get carried away or ahead of myself because we have come a cropper too often.
“From a fan perspective, yes, get excited but from a playing point of view, keep our feet on the ground – and I suppose I still think as a player.”
England’s Test cricket captain Joe Root was batting helping his side win a one-day international against Sri Lanka when the Germany game kicked off on Tuesday, but joined his team-mates to watch the game’s thrilling conclusion.
“We watched the remainder of the game at the ground and it was a fantastic performance. It was a good atmosphere watching it as a squad and we’re fully behind the lads,” he said.
“One of the special things about sport is it can really bring a nation together. I think you saw that with us in the World Cup in 2019 but even more so now. With this tournament, especially off the back of what everyone’s been through over the last couple of years, it’s great to see that passion that sport can really bring out in people.”