England and Germany will face off in the EURO 2020 round of 16 on Tuesday and with all the history between the two sides, this fixture has everything needed in order to be a classic. Taking a step back however, How did we get here? What are the strengths and weaknesses of both teams and how will both teams likely approach the game?
Germany progressed through the supposed “Group of Death” in second place. This position fluctuated throughout the night against Hungary where, at one point, Germany were out of the tournament altogether. They had a slow but still not too dismal start to their campaign with a 1-0 loss to France. However momentum soon picked up again with a 4-2 win over Portugal. Then, after a rollercoaster of emotions, Germany secured second place in the group with a 2-2 draw against the surprisingly competitive Hungarian side.
Germany were the 5th most high scoring team in the tournament in the group stage after scoring 6 goals in three games. They also have a relatively leaky defense too as they have conceded 5 goals. Aside from Portugal, no other team that is still in the competition has conceded more goals. I therefore think it would be fair to say that Germany are certainly a good team to support if you are looking for entertainment.
Germany could have such a leaky backline due to many factors. I would argue one prevalent issue is the lack of a pacey centre back. This weakness was made clear when Germany played France as Mbappe was making constant runs in behind the back three of Hummels, Ginter and Rudiger. This lack of pace has led to Germany being very open on the counter attack which Portugal proved with their first goal against Die Mannschaft and was also shown by Hungary’s second goal which was a relatively simple ball over the top. This is a weakness which Southgate will definitely target and with runners like Foden and Sterling in behind, it is more than possible for England to have success in this area.
Speaking of success, Germany’s attacking force this tournament has been impressive which could be expected given the personnel that Germany have access to. Germany are quite reliant on crosses for creating goals, they have attempted on average around 8 crosses per game.This volume of crossing has been responsible for 50% of their goals. This is a big strength considering Kimmich’s ability to cross and runners like Havertz having the ability to latch onto these crosses really well. Against England, there is a likelihood that Germany could get some advantages in these wide areas especially if Southgate picks somebody like Rashford who is less defensively disciplined as the England full back may be left exposed, allowing for dangerous crosses to be put in the box.
If we describe Germany’s group stage matches as a “rollercoaster of emotions,” it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that England’s games were barely even emotional in comparison, unless you count the sense of unfulfillment upon the final whistle of course. Despite lackluster performances, England passed through their group and finished on top. This was after a solid yet uneventful win against Croatia and Czech Republic which were on either side of a disappointing 0-0 draw to Scotland.
England are the lowest scoring team that is still in the tournament. They have had 1 player score for them and cannot seem to get their star striker, Harry Kane, to get the goals which he found during the successful 2018 World Cup. Kane has only been able to manage 5 shots in the 3 games he has played this tournament. Confounding on this issue, Kane has also touched the ball in the box 8 times combined in all 3 games! This is an issue that England do need to be somewhat weary of as Kane dropping deep is clearly not having the same effect as it tends to have for Spurs and with Germany’s slow back line, England need as much of a presence up the pitch as possible.
Following the trend of England and Germany having completely polar opposite group stages, England’s defense has been very solid. They are one of only two teams who did not concede a goal in their first three games. This is all despite England’s captain Harry Maguire being out for the first two games of the season after his injury suffered when playing for Manchester United. This solidity is invaluable in international football given the fact that games tend to be more scrappy and a solid defense gives the best platform to work off. For example both Portugal’s 2016 side and Greece’s 2004 side played quite negatively and yet, both managed to win the tournament. I would expect Southgate to go with his priority of defensive solidity in this game which will certainly be needed against Germany’s attacking forces and could be the catalyst to England overcoming their historic rivals.
With both Low and Southgate being victims of a lot of negative press, this game isn’t only a battle between two countries who are entangled in history but also between two managers who will be desperate to shift public opinion and a convincing win in this Round of 16 game is needed for both managers to justify their positions and to progress in this tournament.