Gareth Southgate has urged his England players to “make their own history” against Germany and described previous meetings between the countries as “an irrelevance” to his young squad.
The build-up to Tuesday’s Euro 2020 last-16 clash at Wembley has inevitably evoked memories of previous knockout matches against Germany, including England’s defeats on penalties in the semi-finals of Italia ‘90 and Euro ‘96 and goalkeeper Peter Bonetti’s horror-show in the 1970 World Cup quarter-final.
Eleven of Southgate’s 26-man squad were not born when the manager missed the decisive penalty at Wembley 25 years ago and he says he will not have to talk to the squad about the history of the fixture.
“I don’t need to demystify it – the history is an irrelevance for them,” Southgate said. “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 Peter Bonetti did 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.”
England defied pre-tournament expectations about the strengths and weaknesses of Southgate’s squad with a solid but unspectacular showing in the group, as they kept three clean sheets but managed just two goals and six shots on the target.
Germany, by contrast, were erratic in getting out of the group of death – losing to France, thrashing Portugal and drawing with Hungary.
Southgate acknowledged that England will have to be at their best to beat Joachim Low’s experienced side but defended their style during the tournament.
“We have to be good enough to beat Germany and a very good German team,” he said.
“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.
“[Attacking football] is always our ambition,” he added in an interview with ITV. “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.”
Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell are due to leave isolation at midnight on Monday, leaving them as major doubts to start the following day.
Southgate said their eight-day period of solitude and individual training had been psychologically difficult but refused to rule them out the XI.
“There’s not only the training part of that but the psychological part of that as well, of course,” he said.
“They’ve had to spend a lot of time in a room on their own so very difficult situation firstly for the two boys.
“You come to a major tournament, you want to be a part of everything and they’ve had to isolate through this period, which is of course difficult for anybody.
“And for us we’ve just got to make that decision [on them starting] as we as we progress.”