Gareth Southgate was keen to dismiss any relevance whatsoever surrounding his moment of personal despair 25 years ago, the last time England and Germany met at Wembley in a major tournament.

But his team-sheet felt like a nod towards the kit he wore as a young, accomplished defender who erred in an-era defining moment of Euro 96 penalty shoot-out heartache.

The England XI he sent out on Tuesday was grey. Very grey. Potentially and hopefully granite like, but definitely dull.

There was no great surprise. A line-up of five defenders and two sitting midfielders had been widely floated before kick-off and the approach was of a type with England's group-stage efforts of two goals scored and none conceded in three matches.

The clarity of Southgate's game plans have been a strength of his reign and account for the goodwill towards him in the England squad. Players are rarely left scratching their heads by a manager who has their back.

But as Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Jude Bellingham and all their considerable creative gifts shuffled into position on the substitutes' bench, it was hard to escape the sense of Southgate missing a trick.

Wing-back to the future

Either side of a raucous 4-2 win over Portugal – one that persuaded an entirely sensible switch to England's wing-back system – Germany were fortunate to only lose 1-0 to France and scraped a chaotic 2-2 draw against Hungary to squeak through to the knockout rounds. They were unquestionably vulnerable.

Southgate could rightly contest that going gung-ho against elite opponents has rarely ended well during the nation's 55 years of hurt, but the start was ominous.

Slow possession from kick-off saw Raheem Sterling, one of three attack-minded players in the XI, come deep and pass to Harry Maguire. Hoof! Then another one from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

 

Defensive numbers would be a moot point if England just kept giving the ball away to technically accomplished midfielders such as Leon Goretzka, who an overrun Declan Rice hauled down for a desperate eighth-minute foul that saw him booked.

Arm-wrestling the rippling Goretzka would probably be an awful experience, but that was effectively how England engaged Germany during a first half they gradually and painstakingly shoved into their favour.

Sterling and Bukayo Saka buzzed effervescently, too often lacking support. Kalvin Phillips burnished his ever-growing reputation as he faced down Goretzka, Toni Kroos and the roving Kai Havertz, while Kyle Walker, John Stones and the excellent Maguire encouraged their team out of a defensive shell and up the field.

Pragmatism wins prizes

Southgate's template is one that necessitates half chances taken and key moments won. Jordan Pickford did his bit with a brilliant save in each half, but Harry Kane's heavy touch towards the end of the first half showed him grasping for form. Alan Shearer branded that lost opportunity "a sitter" in his role as pundit on BBC.

It is a method that won Portugal Euro 2016 and France the 2018 World Cup, with extreme pragmatism laying a foundation for attackers flecked with magic to do the rest. But Portugal and France are already out here and Kane looked a shadow of the himself, unfit to be Southgate's Ronaldo.

Drift was an inadequate description for an unremarkable second half, given everything from the football to the tension felt so heavy. Finally, Southgate turned to his bench for some of Grealish's sparkle 69 minutes in.

Sterling had started to turn towards blind alleys rather than open spaces and relished a willing accomplice as he drove in field. Kane recycled possession to Grealish, who found Shaw. There was familiar Euro 2020 punctuation to a crisp move. England 1-0, Sterling.

 

Once again the toast of his boyhood neighbourhood after his third goal of the competition, the Manchester City forward erred horribly with pass towards his own goal in the 81st minute. Thomas Muller was through, but the inevitable didn't happen.

Then a moment of salvation for Kane and his country, stooping to head home, with Grealish and Shaw again involved. Job done, demons slayed.

Perhaps we linger too much on results and let them paper over performances, but results are the strongest currency of all in tournament football. To put it in context, this was England's first win in a major knockout match over a country with a world title to their name since overcoming West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final.

Whether it's coming home or not, Southgate and his players have breached unchartered territory.

An expectation to take the game to Sweden or Ukraine in a Rome quarter-final will inevitably bring more cries against caution. But those are tomorrow's problems in Southgate's summer of Sterling.

England claimed their place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 as they beat rivals Germany 2-0 at Wembley Stadium.

Raheem Sterling grabbed his third goal of the tournament to put the Three Lions ahead from a well-worked move in the second half before Harry Kane opened his account with a late header.

Gareth Southgate's side will now face either Sweden or Ukraine in Rome as they look to match 2018's run to the World Cup semi-finals.

Germany seemed to take a partisan atmosphere at Wembley in their stride early on, making a strong start that was exemplified by Declan Rice receiving a booking for a cynical but entirely necessary challenge on a breaking Leon Goretzka.

However, the subsequent free-kick came to nothing, inviting England to improve on what they had offered up thus far and leading to something of an end-to-end half.

The hosts had two Harry Maguire headers and a Sterling strike from distance to show for their efforts, while Germany went close through Timo Werner and Robin Gosens.

But it was Kane who saw the best chance of the half, latching somewhat fortuitously onto a deflected clearance attempt but failing to get around Manuel Neuer before Mats Hummels intervened.

The half-time break seemed to benefit the Germans most, Joachim Low's side finding it far easier to prevent their opponents from playing out following the restart.

They were also creating chances, most notably in the form of a powerful Kai Havertz drive from the edge of the box that Jordan Pickford saved athletically.

But with neither side able to find the breakthrough by the 70-minute mark, both managers moved to change things with the introductions of Serge Gnabry and Jack Grealish.

And it was the latter who made the telling contribution, collecting the ball after a fine run from Sterling before teeing up Luke Shaw for a low cross that the Manchester City man side-footed home.

The goalscorer almost turned villain moments after his opener, inadvertently setting up Germany to release Thomas Muller in behind, but hit the turf in relief after the Bayern Munich man struck wide.

Grealish was on hand to make things safe soon after, swinging in a left-footed cross that Kane needed only to crouch to head home and send Wembley wild.

Joe Root reached 6,000 runs in one-day action as he steered England to a five-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the series opener at the Riverside.

England's Test skipper did not feature in the recent Twenty20 series between the nations but returned to international duty with an unbeaten 79, in the process putting Sri Lanka's below-par total of 185 into context.

Moeen Ali weighed in with 28 after coming in at 83-4, the home team having suffered a middle-order wobble after opener Jonny Bairstow (43 off 21 deliveries) had given them a flying start.

The impressive Dushmantha Chameera struck twice but Sri Lanka's slim hopes were hit by two costly drops, all-rounder Ali put down from his first ball by wicketkeeper Kusal Perera before Root was missed in the deep when on 36. England eventually eased over the line with 91 balls to spare.

Captain Perera had top-scored with 73 but the tourists never appeared to have enough on the scoreboard in the first of three ODI games between the teams.

Chris Woakes claimed two early wickets on his way to outstanding figures of 4-18, Sri Lanka – left with a depleted squad after three players were sent home for breaching COVID-19 protocols – quickly slipping to 46-3.

They recovered thanks to a stand worth 99 as the impressive Wanindu Hasaranga contributed 54 in combination with his skipper, only to then lose their last six wickets for just 40 runs.

Sri Lanka's cause was not helped by two run outs to wrap up the innings midway through the 43rd over, David Willey having backed up opening partner Woakes by taking 3-44.

 

England held together by Root

Root is the second English batsman to register 6,000 runs in ODI cricket, with only Eoin Morgan (6,882) managing more. The right-hander reached the number in his 141st inning in the format, the same number as the legendary Viv Richards needed. Indeed, only Hashim Amla (123), Virat Kohli (136) and Kane Williamson (139) have done it faster.

Woakes keeps Sri Lanka in check

Perera became the 17th Sri Lankan batsman to register 3,000 one-day runs, though only Hasaranga offered any real support. Seam bowler Woakes set the tone from the outset for England as he ended up bowling five maidens in an outstanding 10-over stint.

Thomas Muller is back in the Germany starting XI for the Euro 2020 last-16 clash against England at Wembley, with Bukayo Saka retaining his place for the hosts.

Muller only featured from the bench when Joachim Low's side scraped a 2-2 draw against Hungary to emerge as runners-up in Group F as he nursed a knee injury.

But the Bayern Munich forward has been passed fit to start alongside wing-back Robin Gosens and defender Antonio Rudiger, both of whom had been struggling with cold symptoms.

Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is involved after suffering a cranial bruise, but only on the bench as Leon Goretzka partners Toni Kroos in central midfield.

Saka was a surprise starter in England's 1-0 win over the Czech Republic to top Group D and responded with a man-of-the-match display.

The Arsenal man forms a front three alongside captain Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, who has scored England's only two goals at the tournament so far.

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has reverted to a back three of Kyle Walker, John Stones and Harry Maguire, with defensive midfield duo Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in front of them.

It means there will be an onus on recalled wing-back Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw to provide thrust from the flanks.

Germany head coach Joachim Low is embracing the "captivating" history between his side and England ahead of their blockbuster Euro 2020 last-16 showdown at Wembley on Tuesday.

Low's Die Mannschaft have won the past four encounters against England in knockout matches at major tournaments, although the Three Lions beat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final.

This will be the 13th meeting between England and Germany at Wembley. England won four of the first five such games (L1), including the 1966 World Cup final, but are winless in their previous seven against Germany at the national stadium (D2 L5).

Low was in charge when German defeated England 4-1 at the 2010 World Cup in the round of 16, while current England manager Gareth Southgate missed a penalty as the Three Lions lost 6-5 in a shoot-out at Wembley in the Euro 1996 semi-finals.

"I think all the matches between England and Germany you talk about for years after," Low said. "This is a fixture that captivates everyone. It's an all-or-nothing game for both teams.

"The excitement goes without saying I can feel the players are highly motivated and we have analysed the English side.

"We are looking forward to this great encounter and a great evening ahead."

Low has led Germany since 2006, winning the 2014 World Cup, and will finish up his tenure at the end of Euro 2020, yet he said he has barely thought about the England match being his last in charge.

"All in all I thought about it two seconds," Low said. "I don't think about it because I have so many other thoughts in my head.

"This is my passion. My whole focus is on the match tomorrow night and I hope we will succeed."

Low has a few selection headaches with injury concerns over Antonio Rudiger, Robin Gosens and Ilkay Gundogan, although he said the final decision will be made on the day of the match.

The Germany boss was also full of praise for England, including Premier League Golden Boot winner Harry Kane – who has had an underwhelming Euro 2020 campaign with no goals.

"Of course we have to be focused," Low said. "Look at Harry Kane and the level that he plays. He can score goals out of every situation.

"This is his skills, his qualities. He has all of them. He is both footed, he is very good in the air. He can protect the ball very well.

"But England also has [Raheem] Sterling, [Phil] Foden, Mason Mount maybe. They have a lot of strong offensive players, attacking players with [Jadon] Sancho as well and [Marcus] Rashford."

Germany have reached at least the semi-final in each of the last three editions of the European Championship. Indeed, since the tournament was expanded in 1996, they have reached at least the last four of the competition each time they have progressed to the knockout stages.

Die Mannschaft have conceded at least once in each of their previous eight matches at major tournaments (Euros and World Cup), since a 3-0 win against Slovakia at this stage of Euro 2016. Only once have had they had a longer run without a major tournament clean sheet, which was in their first nine World Cup matches between 1934 and 1954.

Gareth Southgate has urged England to grasp the opportunity to put the Three Lions' poor Euros knockout record behind them but does not feel the omens will have a negative impact on the team.

England have never won a Euros knockout match in 90 minutes, with four of those six games going to penalties – only one of those (v Spain, Euro 96) ended in a victory for the Three Lions.

It is a damning indictment of England's underachievement in the tournament throughout its history.

While Southgate believes his young team have a great chance to overcome such a poor record, he also feels the players should not feel any extra pressure because of it.

"It's an incredible record really," Southgate told reporters on Monday. "I think it's something we've talked a lot about as a team over last four years – this team has that opportunity [to buck the trend].

"In previous eras we've spoken about the past and baggage. There's no reason for these players to feel that way, as most weren't born when those games happened. It's an irrelevance for them.

"But it's a fantastic game to be involved in and great opportunity to progress to a quarter-final."

 

A key area for consideration before Tuesday's game is whether Ben Chilwell or Mason Mount will be involved.

Both have been isolating after being identified as close contacts of Scotland's Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus, but they will be allowed to mix with their team-mates again from midnight on Monday.

Southgate accepts the situation certainly has not been ideal, but he thinks either player could cope if needed to start.

"They're having to travel separately to the team," Southgate added. "They have had individual training programmes this week. The only sessions they've been able to join in with is when there's not full team training. That's the basis on which we have got to make a decision.

"Clearly, it's really complicated because there's the physical periodisation that you would want for a game like this. Then there's the tactical training.

"The meetings we've had, they have to be in a separate room and dial in on Zoom. The whole experience for them, including travelling down tonight is very, very difficult.

"But they are young players who can get on with things pretty well. It's a decision I've got to take when we're looking at how they've been able to train and everything else. There's a lot wrapped up in that call."

Southgate will surely be hoping star striker Harry Kane can finally have an impact at Euro 2020, with the Tottenham forward struggling to make his mark in the group stage.

He has managed just five shots in total and only one of those was on target, with Kane on zero goals from an xG value of 1.4.

His 11 touches in the penalty area are one fewer than Che Adams of Scotland, who finished bottom of England's group – but Kane insists his performances are the least of his worries if the Three Lions continue in the tournament.

"I've always said as a striker, you go through spells, sometimes spells don't go your way," he said. "The most important thing for me is we are winning games. The first objective was to qualify, which we've done, the second is to reach the quarter-finals.

"Whether I'm scoring, the most important thing is winning. That's all I'm focusing on at the moment. However we get it done, that's our main objective and we'll do everything in our power to get through."

England will have to overcome a wretched record in European Championship knockout matches if they are to get past their old nemesis Germany in the round of 16 on Tuesday.

The Three Lions go into the match having never won a knockout game in 90 minutes at the Euros, with four of their previous six attempts ending level and two leading to defeats.

Four of those past instances went to penalty shootouts and England only progressed from one of them, against Spain in Euro 96.

That victory came at Wembley, so perhaps the locale of Tuesday's clash will at least provide England with an edge – after all, they are unbeaten in their 14 Euros and World Cup matches (excluding penalty shootouts) at the 'Home of Football'.

 

While former Germany international Stefan Effenberg suggested that all the pressure will be on England because of the home crowd, Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate senses an opportunity.

The rivalry may be weighted more towards England in terms of the significance attached to these fixtures, but Southgate was keen to impress on his players that history is within their grasp.

"It's a great opportunity for this team to make some history and give people memories of England-Germany fixtures for the future that are a little different to some of the ones they've been flooded with over the last few days, which mean absolutely nothing to them because they weren't born," Southgate said.

"The game is probably worthy of more than the second-round stage. We're playing against a very good side.

"They won't fear coming to Wembley. We'll have to play at our very best. We've got to be tactically, physically and psychologically well-prepared."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England – Raheem Sterling

With Harry Kane faltering in the group stage, looking a shadow of the sharpshooter who is usually so reliable for Tottenham and England, the goalscoring burden has fallen on Sterling. Despite a disappointing second half to 2020-21, the Manchester City winger has scored both of the Three Lions' Euro 2020 goals, taking him to 14 in his past 19 appearances for his country after just two in his first 45 caps.

 

Germany – Kai Havertz

From an individual perspective, Havertz's first season at Chelsea was not especially impressive. Having been roundly criticised in England during 2020-21, he will surely be eager to catch the eye here, and given his start to the tournament, many would back him to do just that. He's already got two goals, though the fact his non-penalty xG of 2.7 is the highest of anyone in the tournament suggests he's been a threat beyond those two efforts. For example, the total xG of sequences he has been involved in (3.8) is bettered by only Pedri (4.6 - before Spain played Croatia) and Memphis Depay (4.4). Write him off at your peril.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Germany's Ilkay Gundogan has scored twice at Wembley, for Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League final and for Manchester City in the Premier League. He could become just the second player to score at the ground for a club side and the German national team after Per Mertesacker.

- This will be the 13th meeting between England and Germany at Wembley. England won four of the first five such games (L1), including the 1966 World Cup final, but are winless in their previous seven against the Germans at the national stadium (D2 L5).

- This will be England's 300th international match at Wembley, with this the 77th match they will have played at the new site since it reopened in 2007. The Three Lions have won 187 times at this venue (D73 L39).

- Germany have reached at least the semi-final in each of the last three editions of the European Championship. Indeed, since the tournament was expanded in 1996, the Germans have reached at least the last four of the competition each time they have progressed to the knockout stages.

- Germany have conceded at least once in each of their previous eight matches at major tournaments (Euros and World Cup), since a 3-0 win against Slovakia at this stage of Euro 2016. Only once have had they had a longer run without a major tournament clean sheet, which was in their first nine World Cup matches between 1934 and 1954.

Ahead of Sri Lanka's three-match series against England, which begins in Durham on Tuesday, visiting captain Kusal Perera might have ruefully acknowledged that if you want a job doing then you might as well do it yourself.

A 3-0 thumping in the T20I leg of the tour meant Sri Lanka's preparations were already far from ideal before Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka breached the squad's bio-secure bubble on Sunday and were send home immediately.

It means Perera is now likely to open the batting in Gunathilaka's absence and take the wicketkeeping gloves with Dickwella unavailable.

Avishka Fernando is out with a quadriceps injury and there could be a debut in the middle order for Charith Asalanka.

The hosts will begin as strong favourites and might even have their eye on a quick victory before the prospect of crowds drifting away to watch the England v Germany last-16 encounter at Euro 2020, which kicks off at 17:00 local time.

England's previous 50-over match against Sri Lanka on home soil ended in a surprise defeat at Headingley during the group stage of their ultimately triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

That meant what was in effect a quarter-final at Chester-Le-Street, where a home side flushed with local talent were roared to victory over New Zealand.

Ben Stokes is still working his way back to full fitness following a broken finger and Liam Plunkett has been cast aside at international level, but Durham's own Mark Wood remains a figurehead of England's white-ball attack and in fine form.

The quality of an England seam department boasting Wood's fellow World Cup hero Chris Woakes looks likely to be far too much for Sri Lanka, although Jason Roy (hamstring) being a doubt for an England batting order lacking Jos Buttler (calf) may give them the tiniest morsels of encouragement ahead of what might become an ordeal.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England – Dawid Malan

Malan finished the T20I series as an opener after Buttler was laid low and the world's number one batsman in the shortest international format is likely to get his chance to impress alongside Jonny Bairstow as Roy recuperates. In three previous ODI innings, he has 90 runs and a top score of 50. If Malan impresses over longer periods in the middle a clamour for him to be restored to England's faltering Test line-up might in turn increase.

Sri Lanka – Dushmantha Chameera

Malan and Bairstow could face a stern examination from pace bowler Chameera, whose 4-17 in the final T20I at the Ageas Bowl followed an ODI career-best of 5-16 against Bangladesh in Dhaka last month. In 28 50-over internationals, the 29-year-old has 30 wickets at 33.36 and his slingy, slippery action could be particularly problematic during this gloomy period of the English summer.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- England have lost five of their past seven ODIs (W2), including a three-wicket defeat in their most recent match at home against Australia last September.
- Sri Lanka have just one win from their previous six ODI matches (L5), however, that win was their most recent game against Bangladesh.
- Joe Root needs 38 runs to reach 6,000 in ODI cricket. He is the second highest run scorer for England in the format after captain Eoin Morgan (6,876).
- Woakes needs one wicket to reach 150 in ODIs. He would be the sixth man to achieve the feat for England and the fourth fastest (105 matches) to do so if he manages it at Chester-Le-Street after Stuart Broad (95), Darren Gough (97) and Adil Rashid (102).
- Perera needs 11 runs to reach 3,000 in ODIs. He would be the joint-third fastest to the milestone out of 17 overall if he does so in his 100th innings after Upul Tharanga (93), Marvan Atapattu (94) and alongside Lahiru Thirimanne (100).

Sri Lanka trio Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka have been sent home from their tour of England for breaching the team's bio-secure bubble.

The three players were in Durham preparing for the first of three one-dayers against England but left the team hotel to visit the city centre against COVID-19-related health guidelines.

A statement from Sri Lanka Cricket on Monday said: "This decision was taken following a preliminary inquiry conducted over a video posted on social media in which the three said players can be seen outside their designated hotel.

"The three players will be suspended from all forms of cricket until the completion of the inquiry."

The trio featured in Sri Lanka's Twenty20 international series against England, which the hosts won with a 3-0 whitewash, and had been expected to be involved in the ODI series.

"The players have been suspended pending a full inquiry, but have confessed to having gone out," Sri Lanka Cricket vice-president Mohan de Silva told Cricinfo.

"They are being recalled [home] from the tour with immediate effect."

 

Mendis, 26, only made 54 runs in three innings during the T20 series but did top score with 39 in the second T20 in Cardiff while fellow batsmen Gunathilaka, 30, has struggled with knocks of four, three and 19.

Dickwella played the second two matches but the 28-year-old managed just 14 runs with the bat and no catches or stumpings.

The departure of Mendis, Gunathilaka and Dickwella, following an injury to Avishka Fernando has left Sri Lanka has left coach Mickey Arthur with a depleted squad but there are no plans to cancel the series, which starts on Tuesday.

England have not so far entertained the neutral at Euro 2020, but heavyweight clashes with Germany rarely disappoint.

The old rivals on Tuesday meet at a major tournament for the first time since the 2010 World Cup, where chaos reigned in another last-16 bout.

A stodgy England approach – not out of keeping with this year's group stage, a Rob Green error aside – gave way as the knockout phase began. The teams shared 35 shots – the only Three Lions tournament game to feature at least 17 for each side since 1998 – and England's 1.13 expected goals (xG) surpassed each of their prior three matches in South Africa.

Germany won 4-1.

 

Control is the name of the game now, though – at least for Gareth Southgate's England.

As Germany traded blows with the big boys in Group F, conceding first in each of their fixtures and extending their run without a clean sheet at a major tournament to eight matches, England kept their guard up.

The Three Lions have 15 clean sheets in 19 games, including three in three at the finals – as many as in 14 matches at the past three major tournaments combined and already more than their two at Euro 96.

At the same time, England netted just twice in Group D, becoming the lowest-scoring pool winners in Euros history.

These statistics do not suggest an exciting, attacking outlook, even if the squad list does. But criticism of Southgate will soon fade if the result goes his way at Wembley this week.

Express yourself

Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka – England's eight attacking options – registered a combined 147 goal involvements in the league in 2020-21.

It is easy to see why fans want these players to be let off the leash. Premier League Golden Boot winner Kane has had five shots, one on target and 11 touches in the opposition box in 246 minutes.

But England's rapid starts to matches have been too easily forgotten.

In each of their group games, the Three Lions hit the post inside 11 minutes. Raheem Sterling's lob against the Czech Republic was touched onto the post when it could have become England's earliest Euros goal at one minute and 47 seconds. That honour still belongs to Alan Shearer (2:14) – against Germany in 1996.

Southgate's side had at least 60 per cent of the possession in the opening quarter of an hour of all three matches. Nine of their 22 attempts came in this period.

The issue has been capitalising on this dominance, with Sterling's header against the Czech Republic the only time England have netted before the 15-minute mark.

Southgate has been level-headed in his assessment of performances so far but acknowledged his team have "run out of steam a little bit in a couple of games".

Unable to either race into a big early lead or maintain this initial frantic pace, England have settled for slowing the play instead, ensuring to avoid the sort of setbacks that saw Shearer's goal cancelled out by Stefan Kuntz on 15 minutes in 1996.

They have been successful in this regard of late, their past four wins – over the course of five matches – coming by 1-0 scorelines. Only in 1990 have England previously had five 1-0 wins in a calendar year.

Don't give it away

In the second half against the Czech Republic, with protecting a narrow lead their only apparent aim, England did not attempt a single shot.

Yet this performance stood completely at odds with the previous most recent example of the Three Lions failing to muster an effort after half-time. Against Spain in the Nations League in 2018, Southgate saw a three-goal lead at the interval almost wiped out.

 

 

England look to be able to manage games now. Even after the goalless draw with Scotland, Southgate spoke of the need to "manage the tournament as well as the game".

They have been versatile in that sense.

In the win over Croatia, England ceded 60 per cent of the possession after the restart and 81.6 per cent in the final 15 minutes, yet their opponents' six second-half chances were worth a meagre 0.3 xG combined.

That figure stood at just 0.07 xG as the Czech Republic attempted in vain to rescue a result in an uneventful second period in which England preferred to keep the ball a little more (53 per cent of the possession).

England have given up opportunities worth 0.77 xG across their three second halves. In the group stage, Spain (0.93) were the only other team below 1.0 in this sense.

Besides against Croatia, when Sterling struck on 57 minutes, England have benefited from not needing to chase a result, with their own second-half xG of 1.57 the seventh-lowest.

"We look difficult to play against," was Southgate's summary, one he will hope holds true against Germany, whose average possession percentage (64.7) far outweighs Croatia's (55.5).

With or without the ball, though, England have managed to dictate the pace of the play – and it is slow.

While averaging 4.5 passes per sequence in the first round – the seventh-highest – Southgate's side ranked last for both direct speed (0.98 metres progressed upfield per second) and directness (17 per cent of distance covered per sequence was upfield).

Crucially, the opposition were slowed, too. Only against Spain (0.87) did teams progress fewer metres upfield per second than against England (1.1), whose opponents moved upfield with a tournament-low 19 per cent of their distance covered per sequence. Croatia and the Czech Republic each fell below their averages in both metrics when facing England.

"I felt like we've been in control in the games," said captain Harry Kane, adding: "I feel like we're in a controlled place going into the big match on Tuesday."

But the worry will be whether England remain capable of responding, picking up the pace should their plodding plan fail and they fall behind.

In the 20 games that followed the 2018 World Cup, England conceded first four times and won on each occasion.

However, since then, in 12 outings, they have lost both such matches without scoring (1-0 v Denmark, 2-0 v Belgium). In Russia, Southgate's side were beaten in all three games in which they trailed at any stage.

After the Scotland stalemate, Southgate said of his reluctance to throw on additional offensive players: "If we had to chase to win, with no consequences for conceding, then you might approach it differently."

So, perhaps it might take England to concede first for fans to see the all-out attacking approach they crave. 

If that happens, though, the form book suggests the Three Lions may well end up bidding their tournament hopes arrivederci.

The match referee for England's Twenty20 series whitewash of Sri Lanka this week has tested positive for COVID-19. 

Phil Whitticase returned the positive result following a PCR test administered on Friday at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. 

He will now observe a 10-day period of self-isolation from June 25 in accordance with the UK Government's protocol on quarantine, a statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said. 

The ECB also confirmed seven other members from the match officials and anti-corruption unit teams were deemed to be close contacts, including five people who were due to officiate at England's first ODI match against Sri Lanka in Durham on Tuesday. They will also have to self-isolate for 10 days.

No members of the two teams were impacted, according to the ECB, which said alternative arrangements will be put in place to ensure Tuesday's ODI goes ahead as planned.

England completed a Twenty20 series whitewash of Sri Lanka with a crushing 89-run win at the Ageas Bowl.

Having already clinched the three-match series with a pair of victories in Cardiff, England made light work of the tourists, who collapsed to 91 all out in response to the hosts' 180-6.

Dawid Malan turned his form around as he led the way with 76 for England, his Yorkshire team-mate Jonny Bairstow helping him lay the platform with 51.

Sri Lanka fought back with the ball but soon crumbled with bat in hand, David Willey (3-27) and Sam Curran (2-14) doing the bulk of the damage for England.

Bairstow and Malan wasted no time in getting going, the former reaching his half-century in 41 balls as they led England to three figures in 67 deliveries.

The expansive Malan was the star of the show, though, clearing the rope four times and getting to 50 in only 30 balls, doing so shortly after Bairstow had fallen to a yorker from Isuru Udana.

After a pair of 14th-over fours from Liam Livingstone (14) and two 15th-over maximums from Malan, England looked on course to get close to 200.

But England then lost their way as they conceded five wickets for 19 runs to go from 143-1 to 162-6, successive boundaries from Chris Jordan (8 not out) helping them get to 180.

Yet they need not have worried about Sri Lanka chasing down even a modest total, only three of their players reaching double figures, number nine Binura Fernando top scoring with 20, which came long after the game was gone.

 

Malan makes his mark

Malan scored seven in the first match and four in the second, but the top-ranked T20I batsman was back on top form here as he scored his 11th half-century in the format.

Sri Lanka struggles continue

Defeat in Southampton means Sri Lanka have won just one of their last 13 Twenty20 internationals, with Mickey Arthur's side unlikely to be considered a threat at the T20 World Cup later this year.

Germany playmaker Thomas Muller hopes striker Harry Kane's England goal drought goes on a little while longer.

England renew their rivalry with Germany next Tuesday in a mouth-watering Euro 2020 last-16 tie at Wembley with misfiring Kane set to lead the line for the Three Lions.

Kane started all three of England's Group D matches, but has just a solitary shot on target to show for his efforts.

The 27-year-old came into the tournament on the back of formidable season in the Premier League with Tottenham as he topped the goals (23) and assist (14) charts but has struggled so far.

He has managed five shots in total, three of which were deemed as 'big chances' by Opta. No other England player missed more than one across those three games.

"Great strikers are the best at being patient," Muller told a news conference.

"A striker is always waiting for his chances. He usually has the least contact with the ball, but the biggest picture in the newspaper after the game. 

"I don't know why he hasn't got into the final positions that he normally comes in. For us it wouldn't be a problem at all if the discussion lasts until Wednesday and we don't concede a goal.

"We're in the round of 16. We won against England World Cup 2010. That has nothing to do with Tuesday, but it might make one or the other feel good. We're looking forward to the big game with England."

Muller claimed he will be fit to face England having struggled with a knee injury during the tournament.

He added: "If I had problems I would not have trained today. The injury does not hinder me. I am experienced enough to deal with it. I am convinced that it will not be a problem for Tuesday."

Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry has backed Leroy Sane to silence the fans who have jeered his performances for Germany at Euro 2020.

Sane has no goals, assists and just one attempt on goal so far in the tournament.

"With the talent and skill level that Leroy has, he will always prevail," Gnabry said.

"It hasn't been so smooth yet. But if he gets his chance, he has to take it. I don't notice anything in the game. He gave Hungary the run-around, worked defensively. He can build on that. 

"We never need whistles. I can't understand why people whistle."

Gareth Southgate is set to offered a new contract regardless of the outcome in England's Euro 2020 showdown with Germany on Tuesday.

The Three Lions set up a meeting with old rivals Germany in the round of 16 at Wembley after qualifying as Group D winners.

England advanced from the group stage of a major tournament without conceding a goal for only the third time – having also done so at the 1966 World Cup (three matches) and in the second group stage of the 1982 World Cup (two games).

Southgate, who replaced Sam Allardyce in November 2016, is contracted until after the World Cup in Qatar next year but Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham wants the 50-year-old to sign a new deal.

"Am I enjoying the football? Yes, I am," Bullingham said. "Gareth has done a brilliant job, finishing top of the group, really solid defence, and he's done really well on and off the pitch, in every aspect.

"Our support is unwavering – 100 per cent unwavering. We are 100 per cent behind Gareth. He knows how we feel about him.

"We feel he is brilliant, both on and off the pitch. We want him to carry on. He's doing a great job.

"Regardless of the group stage of the tournament we would have wanted him to carry on, not just in [this] tournament but if you look at the Nations League as well, he did brilliantly in that.

"I remember the Spain game (the 3-2 Nations League win in October 2018) – absolutely great performances."

 

Bullingham added: "Gareth knows exactly how we feel about him. He knows that we think he's doing a great job and we'd like him to carry on.

"We would love him to carry on, for sure, beyond this contract."

England midfielder Declan Rice is "relishing" the opportunity to face Germany duo Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller in a mouth-watering Euro 2020 last-16 clash on Tuesday. 

Gareth Southgate's side came top of their group, taking seven points from games against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic without conceding a goal, ensuring they will begin the knockout rounds at Wembley Stadium.

There, they will face Germany for the third time at a European Championship and the first in a knockout match since the Three Lions lost on penalties in the semi-finals of Euro 96.

West Ham midfielder Rice has started all three of England’s games so far and is likely to be in from the start against two players who he has expressed admiration for in the past. 

After Bayern Munich's 2020 Champions League final triumph over Paris Saint-Germain last year, Rice tweeted: "Muller has to be up there as one of the most underrated players of all time! Serious footballer."

He followed this up in April with a tweet about Kroos after Real Madrid's 3-1 Champions League victory over Liverpool, saying: "Watching Toni Kroos is very special." Los Blancos midfielder Kroos replied: "Thanks mate."

Kroos has been exemplary for the 2014 world champions so far in this tournament. No player has completed more passes at the finals than the 31-year-old (280), with 217 of those occurring in the opposition half – by far the best return at the tournament.

Speaking at a media conference on Friday, Rice described Kroos as "world class" and said he cannot wait to go toe-to-toe with him.

 

"I can't remember what my tweet actually was but I woke up to him saying 'thanks mate'," he told a media conference. "It was a good moment to be fair and the lads at West Ham were giving me a bit [of stick] for it.

"If you go back to the tweets, I have always said I am a fan.

"When there are big games on and you are watching, you appreciate top footballers. Obviously that night I felt the need to say [what I did] about Muller and Kroos.

"I am relishing to go out there and put myself up against the best. It is England v Germany, round of 16, at Wembley, it is going to be proper, so I need to go out there and give a solid performance myself and as a team.

"Kroos is world class, other midfielders like me want to test ourselves. But we need to impose ourselves on the game and be physical and stop him spraying it around the pitch."

Tuesday's game will be the third meeting between England and Germany at the European Championship. Germany won 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the 1996 semi-final, before England won 1-0 in the group stages at Euro 2000.

England will be hoping to improve on a poor record in the knockout games in this competition, having never won one in 90 minutes (D4 L2). Four games have gone to penalties, with England only progressing once via this method, against Spain at Wembley in 1996.

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