No goals in a first half in which England defended well but lacked precision in attack, followed by six in the second when the attack was as good as it’s been since the European Championships and the defence… wasn’t.
Promising though, right? Nice to be reminded that England have some very good footballers at least. Here’s how we rated them in the 3-3 draw with Germany at Wembley.
He was bad at the thing he’s bad at and worse at the thing he’s supposed to be good at.
It’s as though he’s been told to ‘be cool’ with the ball at his feet, repeats that mantra over and over in his head when he’s in possession, resulting in him taking far too much time and looking anything but cool when he eventually gets rid of it, inevitably giving it away.
He kicked the ball straight out of play with his first opportunity to show how cool he is, was tackled by Jamal Musiala with his second and nearly gifted Kai Havertz with a goal as he spread his arms wide to illustrate his coolness to his defence, waiting for a ball to come into he box which never arrived.
And then it was if the confidence he has in his shot-stopping drained through his feet and out into the ether. He weirdly made no real attempt to save Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty, not that he had any real chance, and then horribly fumbled a bread and butter save to cost England victory. Not cool, Nick.
One very good moment as he outmuscled Havertz, brought the ball out of defence and passed through the lines to Raheem Sterling, one slightly dodgy one as he passed the ball to Pope from about six yards away from him with about six Germany players in the box along with them. Limped off after 35 minutes when his hamstring pinged and looked quite concerned.
Is the middle centre-back in a three actually the easiest position to play on the pitch or is it just made to look easy because typically classy players play there? Can’t really remember anything he did, right or wrong, which in that position probably means he was pretty good? Or not good? Don’t know.
He might just have played himself out of the starting lineup for the opening World Cup game against Iran. He did his positive defending thing well in the early stages, stepping in to win possession and pushing the team forward. The England fans were even chanting the Harry Maguire song for a bit.
But Musiala took a liking to him and it all went tits up. Having passed the ball to the Bayern Munich star he followed one error with another as he chopped him down to concede the penalty having been diddled by a stepover. Maguire looked more than a little cumbersome as Musiala left him on the floor soon after, before the Manchester United man was again culpable as England went two down.
Forcing the issue, he gave the ball away on the edge of Germany’s box, then watched Havertz curl the ball into the top corner from the edge of his own moments later.
He looked uncharacteristically unsure of himself in the first half and was caught in possession on at least three occasions and frustratingly choped back when seemingly in decent crossing positions. Whether that was because of no option to hit in the middle wasn’t entirely clear, but like most of his teammates on the pitch, he turned it on in the second half and probably secured his place as a result.
He played much higher up the pitch, set Jude Bellingham up nicely for one great chance and then produced a wicked cross for Luke Shaw’s opener.
Genuinely didn’t note down anything, positive or negative, about either central midfielder in the first half. But is that sort of the point for the double sixes in first halves under Southgate? Rice broke up play, as is his England wont, but didn’t carry the ball from deep, as is his West Ham wont, which would be really useful as not much else seems to go on in there for large periods.
It’s probably worth telling Bellingham his team are 2-0 down at the start of every game.
For the first hour he was fine. It was a case of: We know Jude Bellingham is really, really good at football, but how do we know? On the evidence of this game, and others for England, we know he’s quite good, but there was little to suggest he’s worth £137m.
For the last half an hour he looked p*ssed and decided to run the game, pushing from midfield, taking an extra second or two to play a more considered pass and racing into the box at any opportunity, winning a penalty on one such occasion.
Ohhh, that’s what Bellingham is about. More, please. Much, much more.
Fellow member of the left-back union Graeme Le Saux was clearly very happy to see Luke Shaw playing in place of Bukayo Saka as he banged on about “balance” for the first 30 minutes or so on commentary, leading to a palpable I-told-you-so tone as Shaw whipped a stunning through ball round two Germany defenders into the path of Raheem Sterling.
His goal was a little fortunate but also well taken as he hit the ball into the ground and under Ter Stegen. He will probably start against Iran.
Some promising link-up play with Sterling and Harry Kane but he will be disappointed with the moments he had to make a telling impact. His touch wasn’t quite there and he missed what looked in real time like a simple chance to cross to Kane for a tap-in, which looked even simpler on the replay.
He was the biggest threat to Germany in the first half but also their solace. They couldn’t deal with his running off the ball but didn’t really need to worry when he got it. He had two shots Marc-Andre ter Stegen dealt with pretty comfortably having done Everything Right. It’s The Sterling Way – he will miss chances, but no other player in the England squad would have got those chances in the first half.
He was also incredibly fortunate not to concede a penalty. “Not enough in that” said Le Saux as Sterling attempted to strip Thilo Kehrer to the waist.
Dropped deep to no avail in the first half as his normally trusty radar was off, but benefited hugely from the energy of Mason Mount, Bukayo Saka and the osmosis of that energy to the rest of the England team, as the game was stretched and he found space.
Oh and he f***ing battered that penalty into the top corner. Absolutely no doubt.
KYLE WALKER (for Stones, 44)
Didn’t do anything of particular note, but he rarely does for England, which is why Southgate likes him.
MASON MOUNT (for Sterling, 66)
You could almost hear him buzzing. Perhaps the England player most heavily criticised when England were playing well, Mount – along with Bukayo Saka – made them play well when they were playing sluggishly. He was positive from the moment he came on and scored a brilliant goal as he smashed the ball into the corner running onto it at a pace he maintained for the entirety of his 30 minutes.
BUKAYO SAKA (for Foden, 66)
Mount’s meddlesome partner in crime, Saka’s quick feet and assist for his substitute pal’s goal was sublime and he linked up beautifully with James when he came on. If it’s a straight pick between Saka and Foden for a start in that role on the right against Iran, the Arsenal man has made it a very tough call.
JORDAN HENDERSON (for Bellingham, 90+1)
Came on and shouted a bit. Will probably be in the squad for that reason.