‘Nights like this allow England to dream’

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June 30, 2021
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    Alan Shearer

    It is onwards and upwards for England at this European Championship, and nights like the one against Germany allow us all to dream a little about what might happen next.

    Before a ball was kicked in this tournament I said what I wanted from Euro 2020 was something for us all to shout about and look forward to after such a difficult few months.

    That is exactly what England are giving us now, and hopefully there is more of the same to come.

    It felt like there were 140,000 fans inside Wembley on Tuesday, let alone 40,000, and the team responded to them – especially in the second half. There was an absolutely incredible atmosphere, a very good England performance… and the perfect result.

    There will be more than 60,000 there for the semi-final if we can get past Ukraine in the quarter-finals in Rome on Saturday, and playing in front of those amazing fans again is one heck of an incentive to make it back.

    If we are lucky enough to make it to the final that will be our sixth game at Wembley at Euro 2020. I don't think we could have wished for a much better scenario than this one, but it's more than just having home advantage that gives me confidence about England's chances of winning this tournament now.

    Our side of the draw looks decent too, but I am not really that bothered about who we play next, or thinking about the last four against either Denmark or the Czech Republic.

    What's important is that Gareth Southgate's decisions are working, and the team is playing well.

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    As Gareth pointed out after the Germany game, this is the first time England have put together a semi-final and a quarter-final at consecutive major finals since 1966 and 1970, and their experience at the 2018 World Cup can only give them confidence for the tests to come.

    The next game is going to be very tough because we are going somewhere different, and England are the only team not to have travelled in this tournament yet. There are plenty of things that could disrupt the rhythm our squad has got from training and their daily routine.

    That's why the England players have to stay focused and only think about their next match, but this is an incredible opportunity for this bunch of players to write their own bit of history.

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    Southgate's selections have been spot on

    We had a bit of luck at 1-0 up against Germany when Thomas Muller missed his big opportunity to equalise, but I guarantee that whoever wins this tournament will have some good fortune somewhere – maybe that was ours.

    Otherwise we looked solid at the back and Gareth deserves a lot of credit for getting England to this stage, for his team selections as well as his tactics.

    There were a lot of impatient people inside Wembley before kick-off on Tuesday, who wanted to see more attacking players on the pitch, but Gareth had a plan, and it worked.

    It was the same when he went with Kieran Trippier at left-back against Croatia, and brought in Bukayo Saka against the Czech Republic.

    This time he decided to play three at the back against Germany, with Trippier as a right-sided wing-back. Again, he got it spot on – Luke Shaw on the left side was superb in the second half, driving forward.

    There were some big performances from the players that started and Southgate's substitutions worked too, because Jack Grealish had a huge impact when he came on with 20 minutes to go.

    That ability to add some spark to our play during games was something I was hoping to see before the tournament began, because I knew we had such a strong squad.

    The trick is to make the most of it. Gareth's game plan is to try to stay in matches rather than go out all guns blazing, but he knows he can unleash the magic of someone like Grealish in the last 30 minutes if he needs to.

    We haven't conceded a goal yet after four games, which is another reason to fancy our chances, but if something goes wrong and we do fall behind then we will always be able to react.

    Kane is up and running now too

    I know myself what a difference a goal makes for a centre-forward so I'm hoping we see a revitalised Harry Kane after he scored his first goal of Euro 2020 against Germany.

    Things did not really click for Kane in the group stage for various reasons, including a lack of service.

    It meant he did not have anything like the same impact he did in Russia, when he ended up scoring six goals and brought home the Golden Boot as the World Cup's top scorer, but he is up and running now.

    There were times in the first half on Tuesday where his movement wasn't great and he looked a little bit flat and jaded but he kept going and got his goal, which might be the moment that changes everything and ignites his tournament.

    We know Kane is a world class striker, and we have reached the quarter-finals without seeing him anywhere near his best. If he does hit form, we are going to be very difficult to stop.

    Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.


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