Bukayo Saka and Reece James combined well together as England drew with Germany
For 20 minutes England fans saw the light and the din that had been going around a packed Wembley was replaced by the belief that maybe Gareth Southgate could still be ‘The One after all.
He didn’t have to replace the Oracle or Master Yoda, Southgate just made things click in a way that had been missing for matches beforehand. “Do or do not, t. is no try” Mr Southgate. The pressure ramped up and it took until England had lost everything else to find the spark, belief, and confidence that it couldn’t get much worse.
The result itself was largely irrelevant, Kai Havertz’s late equaliser was more of a smear on Nick Pope’s World Cup dreams than it was the squad, and you can pinpoint the moment it all changed.
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In a substitution born from a lot of ‘why not’ thinking rather than too much tactical tweaking, Southgate stumbled upon a combination that may well have .ed itself into World Cup favour, and who says rivals can’t work together. Gone are the days of bitterness across the international canteen with Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney smirking at Frank Lampard and John Terry behind their Premier League medals.
England haven’t been bot.d by club allegiances for a while under Southgate, everyone comes under one entity, fans too, and it has helped because the catalyst for the best 20 minutes of football since maybe beating the German’s one year ago at Euro 2020 was lit by a 21-year-old who .s in red and a 22-year-old devoutly a Blue.
It was the link-up of England Player of the Year Bukayo Saka and perhaps England’s most in-form .er, Reece James, that took the game from a miserable way to enter the World Cup to ‘hang on, if we get this right then Declan Rice may have been right, maybe we will be good after all.’
In a way that only international football could under Southgate, it got worse before it got better, Havertz produced a stunning goal and it pushed England to express themselves. ‘Give the ball to James’ was Thomas Tuchel’s final tactical advice for Chelsea, do the same for England, folks.
The wingback was given time to roam with Saka going outside and in, moving into space and they were connected. Twelve minutes later, with assists from both of them, England were ahead. The final goal doesn’t matter much in the long run, but it might change Southgate’s selection for Qatar, and fans think they’ve found a winning formula.