England v Germany: The old ghosts return to Wembley | Soccer Eurocup 2021

On Wednesday night, while deciding whether England’s rival was France, Portugal or Germany, the English camp watched Cristiano Ronaldo breathe with his eyes closed with interest. Twice. Before shooting his two penalties against France. The English footballers were barbecuing in the gardens of St. George’s Park, on their first day off, with Germany-Hungary on one giant screen and Portugal-France on another. Ed Sheeran, a friend of Kane’s, had sung a few songs to them. But when Cristiano was about to shoot, the gazes of the players went to the Portuguese routine, in which they appreciated the use of visualization techniques, that extra breathing with their eyes closed. Pum, pum: two clear goals.

A few minutes later they learned that their rival this Tuesday in the round of 16 would be Germany (18.00, Four), which gave more meaning to the detailed dedication to the fate of the penalties in their training sessions. 25 years ago, in the 1996 Euro semi-final at old Wembley, Gareth Southgate missed sixth in the tiebreaker against Germany and England missed the final. Before that, the now English coach had thrown again from 11 meters. Three years before, with the Crystal Palace. To the stick.

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Half a life later, Southgate, 50 years old, has arranged everything to prevent this from happening again, and he already has lists of pitchers, of which people can be on the field at those moments, who can talk to the footballers, which ones they will want treat the physios. The days after the barbecue, his players have been giving details of how they prepare almost daily for that trance.

They make the walk from the center of the field to the area and there they wait for a whistle. As Declan Rice, West Ham midfielder explained, at that point, Cristiano’s breathing, is where the footballer takes command: “When the referee whistles, you don’t have to go. You give yourself an extra couple of seconds, with breathing techniques, to relax. And then it is all visualization, how you are going to put the ball in the net ”.

In Germany they look at this meticulousness with a certain condescension: since 1970 they have always eliminated England from the big tournaments (in three World Cups and two Euro Cups).

The Germans have their own problems: they cannot find a model for the game and are still waiting for the promised generational renewal that Löw has not undertaken. The classics Hummels (32 years) and Müller (31), on the downside, continue to appear in the line-ups, while the destabilizing Sané (25) and Musiala (18) live on the edge. But the journalist Alex Steudel, in picture, he takes it with derision: “I don’t trust German skills, I trust English nerves. You can always trust them against Germany. “

Southgate took the weight off them on Monday: “Most of these kids weren’t born when those games were played.” In England, there is concern about the scoring shortage of some attackers who should save them from reaching penalties: two goals in three games. Kalvin Phillips pointed out two reasons: “We must take more risks, me in particular, turn around and give it to Harry [Kane] and Sterling. But I’m new to the team, and I don’t want to lose the ball too much, ”he said. “Gareth [Southgate] he was defense and his teams are defensive ”.

They arrive so engrossed in the historical traumas that Germany has inflicted on them that they barely mention the gigantic occasion in which they did knock it down: the 1966 World Cup final, also at Wembley. With phantom goal in favor included.

Although the Germans have also found an antidote for that. Constanze Stelzenmüller, daughter of a German diplomat stationed in London at the time, recounted the ambassador’s concern the day after the English barbecue: “If we win, all our work here will have been in vain.” According to Stelzenmüller, when Germany lost, “the whole embassy went to the first pub and got drunk until they lost their sense of pure relief.”

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