If it’s difficult to know how you’ll feel afterwards, maybe that’s the point. England felt something again. You scored again. They played again with some freedom. They offered a vision of what they could be, albeit a reminder that there are recurring problems.
It was a similar story for the German team, which is why in this last game before the World Cup perhaps a draw suited everyone in its own pleasantly intricate way.
Many could point to problems, but both managers could ultimately point to comebacks and character traits.
Germany saved the point in the Nations League with a very late equalizer. England enjoyed a comeback from a 2-0 deficit and a concentrated period where they looked like a convincing team again.
There was justification for Gareth Southgate, if not a win.
England’s first goal showed how full-backs really should work in this divisive formation, as Luke Shaw completed a Reece James cross. The second goal showed how the manager can read a game to make the right substitutions as Bukayo Saka combined with Mason Mount.
The loveless interpretation of this could be that he had to correct his own mistakes – including picking Harry Maguire. On a more positive note, just like Southgate has insisted on backing up their centre-back, this team is certainly playing for their manager.
That might be the strongest feeling of all.
It all took place amid an admittedly odd but entertaining game, stretched and distorted by several competing forces – not least the order of goals. It was a Nations League game that meant little, but also a final World Cup build-up game that meant a lot… eight weeks before the tournament.
Both managers clearly wanted a good result to regain momentum, but there was only occasional momentum in the general game. The first half looked the way it was: Lots of Premier League and Bundesliga players thinking of bigger things and not least staying keen for the World Cup itself.
Aside from an admittedly exceptional Shaw Ball, not even very little happened.
It was particularly notable for the full-back given he is currently not selected for his club side and given what happened to his fellow United submarine.
Many might say it was Maguire who dropped him in the first place, but the wider problem for Southgate is that a lack of first-team football makes his inside half even more uncertain.
It can’t be assumed that he doesn’t mind sitting on the bench as you just don’t see him regularly. It is certainly more likely that he will not be able to keep up with attackers like Jamal Musiala.
The German revelation was literally too fast for him and played on a different level. He just confused Maguire. It was all the more surprising that referee Danny Makkelie was so slow in awarding the penalty. Ilkay Gündogan put it in the corner.
It wasn’t to remain the only draw Maguire struggled with the pace of the game speeding up significantly after the penalty.
This was mainly due to the fact that England did not want to accept another defeat, although the exit caused problems at first.
Substitute Timo Werner stepped in twice, just to illustrate the classic lack of clinical acuity in his own game. Maguire missed the ball again, but Kai Havertz sent it so precisely to the post from distance.
However, there was a real upswing behind England at this point. The tone of the game had changed. Something had been released. The wingers were now full-backs rather than full-backs and it certainly wasn’t a back five.
England’s first goal illustrated that in such an exciting way, with a sweeping swing that saw James send the ball to Shaw, who controlled the ball and finished in a manner not dissimilar to his goal at the other end in the Euro 2020 final.
England now had more than one goal. They had the excitement of the crowd going with their momentum and an excitement so unlike anything before. There was also the difference Southgate’s submarines made. Saka showed that perhaps he should be used much further up the front as he carved out the opening, before Mount offered the kind of finish we haven’t seen enough of in his game lately.
It was then as if England were on a wave as Jude Bellingham surfed Nico Schlotterback’s challenge before the defender pierced him. It was a penalty as obvious as Germany’s and it was inevitable that Kane would score.
A comeback that would potentially spark a turnaround would have been the perfect storyline and farewell, but there was a twist to tone things down a bit. Nick Pope fumbled and Havertz was back to finish.
Back-up goalkeeper questions aside, perhaps that’s good for Southgate in its own way.
The game offered a reminder of his team’s qualities as well as their problems. It also offered a bit of power and electricity. Maybe that’s the most important thing before the manager has to wait until the World Cup.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/england-germany-result-nations-league-southgate-b2175811.html England v Germany: Nations League result and report as Luke Shaw, Mason Mount and Harry Kane score for England