England topped group D at Euro without losing a game and their reward for his feat is a clash with the Germans. The two countries have competed in some major fixtures over the years and now that Joachim Low’s men will take a trip to Wembley, here are some of their best performers so far. They weren’t all that impressive against France or Hungary but in between that they romped past Portugal, so here are the names to watch out for…
Starting with one of the experienced heads at the back, Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels. He was amongst the pool, as was Thomas Muller, of players that were axed by Low only to now have got the call-back a few years further down the line. Age is potentially a problem with Hummels and there has been a lack of consistency regarding his centre-back partner as well as the managerial position which can’t have helped at Signal Iduna Park.
Focussing on the national team though and Hummels, along with Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger and Matthias Ginter of Gladbach, has featured in that starting back three/five and has done so impressively. Of course he scored that own goal that proved to be the difference against Deschamps’ France but in general, he has brought a calm head to the table which can be integral at a major tournament. We have seen England struggle to get Harry Kane involved in the game to an acceptable level and Hummels’ presence may continue such woes.
From a big name to someone that may be unknown to those that aren’t regular watchers of Italian football, Atalanta’s Robin Gosens. This Gasperini side has had a meteoric rise in the last few seasons from mid-table mediocrity to near enough guaranteeing UCL football year in, year out. The likes of Ruslan Malinovskiy and Duvan Zapata have played a big role in this and the same goes for Gosens, a flying fullback that offers a lot going both ways.
He wasn’t a nailed-on starter coming into the Euros but his performances have him as one of the first names on Low’s team-sheet currently. He really came to the fore against Portugal, scoring once and providing two assists also- along with Kai Havertz a lot of issues were caused down the left flank, Nelson Semedo of Wolves being unable to cope. It remains to be seen how Gosens would fare in a game where he’s pegged back and forced to defend for the majority of the game but his strengths are pretty strong indeed!
The defence capabilities of Joshua Kimmich allow Gosens to focus more on attack, when the Atalanta man does break forward then the remaining four defenders can filter into a more traditional defensive line. Whether it be at right-back or in a defensive midfield role, Kimmich has become one of the best players in world football in the last eighteen months/ two years. He is at the heart of Bayern’s success but is he as important for his country?
As a wingback is he neither here nor there and you’d argue they miss his intensity and stamina in the middle of the park, especially given the age of Toni Kroos. It’s not too often that you get a player who is this elite in two different positions, so there is something to be said that Low has him operating in one that is unfamiliar to Kimmich. An interesting battle will be Kimmich vs Raheem Sterling, the man who has scored England’s only two goals of the tournament to date and has looked right up for it throughout.
Last but not least, the fourth player in question is Chelsea’s Kai Havertz. Venturing into the attacking third and a big questions comes down the middle, Low choosing not to use a recognised number nine. Thomas Muller of course has bags of experience in that role but has dropped deeper in recent years to accommodate for Robert Lewandowski on a club level. Like with Hummels, Muller was one of the outcasts so to see him in this squad and starting centrally is quite fascinating. Whilst Muller is yet to get off the mark and also Serge Gnabry has struggled to shine, Havertz has hit the ground running after scoring the only goal of the Champions League final against Manchester City.
It has been a tough season for the German in the English capital, from injuries to the pandemic and not to mention his own personal struggles with covid, but he is really starting to look like at a £70 million plus player. Havertz was on target in that 4-2 win over Portugal and he then headed home from close range against Hungary, his attacking influence on the side can’t be overlooked. Southgate’s men are yet to concede a goal and have been defensively resolute albeit against lesser sides, they’ll have to step it up a level if they want to deny Havertz space because the chances are, he’ll punish you.