England vs Germany: what to expect from Joachim Low’s side in Euro 2020 showdown

England vs Germany
(Image credit: PA Images)

England vs Germany is a tie which immediately evokes strong memories - many of them painful for Three Lions fans. Gazza’s tears, Southgate’s penalty heartbreak, Lampard’s disallowed goal - and regardless of whether Tuesday’s drama reaches those heights, emotions are set to run high. 

EURO 2020 Germany squad: Full team profile

While Southgate’s plans remain far from certain - he’s continually tinkered with his lineup throughout the tournament - Germany look typically settled by this stage. But how do they play? Which formation will they go for? And what options does Low have from the bench? Let’s take a look. 

Three at the back

Germany’s switch to a back three began around October 2018, in the months following Germany’s humiliating group stage exit from that year’s World Cup. Low’s decision to drop Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng - the side’s most experienced and dependable defenders - prompted the switch, with a trio of rookies eschewing the World Cup winners.

Hummels has returned to the side, but his diminishing powers mean he’s flanked by the more athletic duo Matthias Ginter and Antonio Rudiger. It’s a decent blend of experience, pace and passing ability, but it’s a more defensive, reactionary strategy than we’re used to seeing from Germany. Historically speaking, the Nationalmannschaft tend to play on the front foot at tournaments, and the shift is certainly not to everyone’s tastes. 

“I would play a back four with this team,” Jurgen Klopp said ahead of Germany’s 2-2 draw with Hungary. “I don’t like the system much.”

Quality down the flanks

A back three means Germany rely solely on wing-backs - as opposed to full-backs-plus-wingers - for their wide play. It’s just as well, then, that they have two specialists in Joshua Kimmich and Robin Gosens. 

The latter, who regularly plays as a LWB for club side Atalanta, is ludicrously quick - he was a sprinter in his younger days - and showed against Portugal what a threat he can be going forward. His goal and two assists in the 4-2 win secured his man of the match status. 

While Kimmich doesn’t usually play as a RWB for Bayern - or even in defence so regularly these days - he is one of the most versatile and intelligent players in Europe. Defensively assured, hardworking and possessor of pinpoint crossing accuracy, he’ll be one to watch for England’s wide-men. Southgate will need to choose his full-backs wisely for this clash.

Unorthodox striker

Germany have always had a world class no.9 leading their attack… until now. Low would give his right hand to have a Gerd Muller, Rudi Voller, Jurgen Klinsmann or Miroslav Klose in his Euro 2020 squad. 

Instead he has a number of quality forwards, but no genuine no.9. Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane are more comfortable cutting in from the wings, while Kai Havertz and Thomas Muller are supporting strikers who prefer making runs from deep. These days, Germany tend to rely on a collective effort to score goals, as opposed to a prolific target man. It’s not something they’re used to, and the attacking triumvirate of Muller and Havertz behind Gnabry doesn’t really appear to be working. 

England fans would do well to remind themselves how lucky they are that Harry Kane is not an opposition player on Tuesday evening. Low would love to have him. 

Control possession

Despite their frailties elsewhere, Germany are incredibly strong in the centre of the pitch and will look to dominate in this area. They enjoyed 62% possession against world champions France in their opening game, and 57% against Portugal on Matchday 2. 

Toni Kroos is certain to start, and will provide the rhythmic passing and composure England midfields seemingly always lack. Who Low elects to play alongside the Real Madrid playmaker will be interesting, however. Ilkay Gundogan is one option, and excelled in a free-scoring role for Manchester City this season. It’s likely, though - for what promises to be a tough, physical clash - he’ll go for Leon Goretzka. The Bayern man is a muscular presence and a powerful runner. Goretzka will likely dominate England’s midfielders at both ends of the pitch.

Essentially, it looks as if it will be a tough evening for Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips and whoever else Southgate opts for in midfield. 

Pace from the bench

If things aren’t going well for Germany, Low has options from the bench that have the potential to run England ragged. 

Leroy Sane and Timo Werner are speed merchants well known to Premier League fans, and either one could pose a serious problem to tired legs late in the game. Jamal Musiala - the Bayern prodigy who could have opted to play for England this summer - is another pacy and skillful forward player with match-winning potential. As is Monaco’s Kevin Volland. 

Southgate has fast defenders to choose from, and would be mad not to start Kyle Walker on Tuesday night. Bakary Saka could be a smart option at left-back, if he doesn’t start further forward.

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