England left late to show positive intentions against Germany in Munich, but that significant change in attitude not only yielded a welcome draw but can also be instructive for the future.
For too long, Gareth Southgate’s side toiled and worked around the margins of this UEFA Nations League match and appeared to be heading for a second consecutive defeat after Saturday’s dismal loss to Hungary in Budapest.
The friendly interpretation would have been that England were tired legs and mentally fatigued after a grueling season, as they were second best to a German team that is decent but barely vintage.
Germany looked more like adding Jonas Hofmann’s 50th-minute deflected opener than falling victim to an England equalizer, until the introduction of Manchester City’s Jack Grealish to Mason Mount with 18 minutes to go released the handbrake.
Southgate has come under scrutiny in the past for conservatism and his substitutions, but here he got them right and the ones he introduced changed the game. It was much needed as a disjointed England seemed to be disappearing again, but they finally got there after those substitutions.
Grealish suddenly had Germany’s defenders on the back foot, nearly leveling Kane when he saw his shot somehow blocked by keeper Manuel Neuer. Harry Maguire received a header that brought Neuer to safety, while West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen added breadth and thrust when he came in for Bukayo Saka and nearly went into Raheem Sterling.
England’s threat grew and was realized when Nico Schlotterbeck knocked down Kane in the area with two minutes to go. It looked like a penalty at the Allianz Arena to the naked eye when Kane led protests to referee Carlos del Cerro Grande – almost resulting in a German goal on the counter-attack.
The VAR screen confirmed the first impression. Kane made no mistake for his 50th England goal in 71 appearances, ahead of Sir Bobby Charlton in second place in the standings and just three behind record holder Wayne Rooney.
It was a late shot, but a reward for taking the game to Germany instead of the heavy, pompous things that occasionally caused problems for Hansi Flick’s side, but without sustained pressure.
England are to be commended for finding new energy of late, thanks in particular to the efforts of the lively Grealish, who provided real drive down the left wing. He may have been unlucky not to get a nod to Chelsea’s Mount, who is looking jaded as the season approaches in June.
Grealish should definitely start England’s next game.
Southgate went with a 4-2-3-1 formation and it increasingly looks like Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips will be cemented as his duo in midfield, although this was disrupted early on when the Leeds United player came out injured.
After taking a point in a game that is always competitive and meaningful, England can return for a Molineux double-header against Italy and Hungary, feeling a little better about themselves after their first international at Bayern Munich’s magnificent Allianz Arena .
Fittingly, it was captain Kane who came to his rescue, and he is more likely to start England’s World Cup campaign against Iran in Qatar in November as his country’s top goalscorer.
Kane’s England scoring record is truly remarkable and while some occasionally frame it around easy hits against San Marino, no one needs to question the Tottenham striker’s right to a place in that elite group.
Southgate opted for a back-four here and it failed to convince, the long-held fear that they will be vulnerable to top-class attacks lingers.
Phillips’ early injury was certainly a blow to Southgate’s game plan as England regrouped after Budapest, but it further cemented Jude Bellingham’s class, with the midfielder again playing with certainty well past his 19 years.
There was irony in the fact that, at least for the first hour, Germany’s best bet was Bayern Munich’s 19-year-old Jamal Musiala, who played alongside Bellingham in England’s under-15 and under-17 squads before going for it. chose to change allegiances.
He delighted the home fans in the usual boisterous German atmosphere. Musiala looks like a future for Germany and one for England.
England seemed happy with their point as they recognized thousands of traveling supporters in the Munich stands and can certainly go into their last two internationals of this break with improved morale.
However, it was too boring and too long-winded, but the belated force of positive thinking has paid off for Southgate and England.
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