It could have been any one of four teams – and at different points during a dizzying couple of hours on Wednesday night, England were pencilled in to face all of them – but in the end, it was Germany.
Gareth Southgate’s side will line up against Joachim Low’s men in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Tuesday in front of around 40,000 spectators at Wembley, in a fixture with as much drama as it has history over the years.
“Now we travel to England,” said Low after his side squeaked through with a 2-2 draw against Hungary. “It’s great news to play in London at Wembley against England.”
Despite Germany’s lukewarm start to the tournament, Low’s upbeat demeanour is understandable – it generally has not gone well for England in previous meetings.
World Cup 2010: Three Lions haunted by ‘ghost goal’
England’s World Cup ended in a mixture of humiliation and controversy as they were thrashed by Germany in Bloemfontein in 2010.
Germany’s deserved win and convincing victory margin was overshadowed by a moment England believe robbed them of the hope of reaching the last eight of the tournament in South Africa.
Matthew Upson had thrown England a lifeline just before half-time after a vastly superior Germany had taken a stranglehold on the game with goals from Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski.ADVERTISEMENT
And moments after Upson’s header, Frank Lampard’s superb lofted finish landed feet over the line behind German keeper Manuel Neuer, a fact obvious to almost everyone inside the Free State Stadium.
But the goal was not given and Thomas Muller added two more goals as Germany ran out convincing winners.
Euro 2000: England win, just…..
It has not always been one-way traffic when England and Germany have faced one another at a tournament.
The Three Lions finally overcame their footballing nemesis in a nail-biting Euro 2000 clash.
Skipper Alan Shearer scored the goal that gave the English a first competitive win over their arch-rivals since the 1966 World Cup final.
However, it was still not enough for England to progress from the group stage.
They lost their next game to Romania and made an early exit.
Euro 1996: Southgate misses from the spot
On 26 June 1996, England and Germany met at Wembley with the prize being a place in the Euro 96 final.
Shearer gave England a dream start with a goal after three minutes before Stefan Kuntz equalised after 16 minutes.
A tense semi-final went to extra time but the two teams could still not be separated so it came down to penalties.
England scored their first five before current England manager Southgate missed his attempt.
And when Andreas Moller tucked his attempt away, it sparked wild German celebrations to leave England fans heartbroken.
Will England overcome Germany this time?
This is Joachim Low’s last tournament in charge of Germany. Low has already announced he will step down from his role after the Euros.
Will next Tuesday’s match with England be his last?
The three-time European champions and four-time world champions were dumped out of the 2018 World Cup at the group stage.
Despite three years of experimenting since then, Low has yet to find a settled side or system and for long spells on Wednesday results as they stood would have left them bottom of Group F and eliminated.
One thing is for sure, England is likely to come to a standstill next Tuesday as Southgate’s side look to win their first major tournament since they beat West Germany in the World Cup final in 1966.
If they get past Germany, England will meet the winners of Sweden against Ukraine in the quarter-finals in Rome on 3 July.
Another penalty shootout?
Former England midfielder Danny Murphy says England have nothing to fear against Germany.
Speaking on BBC One, Murphy said: “We have players that could cause them and Portugal problems if we get them at a later stage.
“If you’re sat in that England squad, [you] shouldn’t have any fear.”
Former Germany head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said he was relishing the match.
“Both Germany and England are in a similar situation, position by position,” he added. “I think it will be a very even battle and it will be about the form on the day.Euro 2020: So Jurgen it’s England v Germany, will there be penalties…?
“We saw a different Germany face against Portugal and we saw a different face tonight, and England were the same against Scotland and Croatia.
“We will see a fascinating game in England v Germany because we do not know what to expect.
“If you go player by player and team by team in Germany and England, this is a 50/50 situation that could end up again in a penalty shootout.”