England 0 Germany 0: Stand-ins make claims for starring roles
It pitted an England side with half of their recognized first XI absent against a Germany line-up minus several of their venerated World Cup winners, leading some experts to suggest that it made the game a bit of a competitive farce. A case of Three Lions versus Die Mannschaft lite.
Although the presence of four Yorkshiremen in the home line-up in Danny Rose, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy at least ensured it was a game that held plenty of interest for the White Rose.
For manager Gareth Southgate too, it also promised to be a fascinating night when he would find out plenty about the strength in depth or otherwise regarding his squad options, with the clock ticking to next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia.
Much of what he viewed was refreshingly positive.
With Harry Kane, Delle Alli, Harry Winks, Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph, Jordan Henderson, Jack Butland and Danny Drinkwater unavailable, the floor was given over to the likes of Jordan Pickford, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham – and they did not disappoint.
Others who auditioned for further involvement in the World Cup build-up received pass marks on a history-making night when England fielded their least experienced international line-up in 37 years since facing Australia in March 1980.
Pickford, for one, confirmed what many observers thought, that he can emerge as a bonafide rival to Joe Hart, with two outstanding first-half stops showing he clearly has international pedigree.
Loftus-Cheek also had a night to remember after growing into the game and displaying poise and strength, suggesting that he also has what it takes to stick around in this England squad.
Abraham could also be pleased with his bow, with Stones displaying further evidence of just why Southgate believes that he can become one of the best defenders in Europe alongside the likes of Gerard Pique and Jerome Boateng.
Maguire, on his first appearance at Wembley, also produced a polished contribution, aside from an early wobble, with the tick marks plentiful in Southgate’s notebook.
Germany might have been without the likes of Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller, but it was by no means a weak offering in a side captained by Bayern Munich’s Mats Hummels and featuring the Premier League trio of Mesut Ozil, Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan.
They had their moments, especially in an impressive opening half hour, but England’s response was pleasing and far removed from some of their turgid offerings in a greasy World Cup qualification programme at Wembley.
In a persuasive second half England kept the world champions extremely subdued.
Granted, the opening period saw England chase shadows at times as Germany moved through the gears effortlessly, none moreso than Manchester City’s Leroy Sane, who displayed the pace, grace and wit that has marked him out as a Pep Guardiola-type player.
Midway through the half in an imposing spell from the visitors, Sane twice went close to breaking the deadlock after earlier spurning an opportunity when he fired into the side-netting.
Soon after seeing his sumptuous curler struck the crossbar, Sane saw a rebound cleared off the line by Phil Jones after Pickford made a fine save to deny Timo Werner.
Pickford made another fantastic one-handed parry to deny Werner seven minutes before the break following a defence-splitting pass from Gundogan.
England hung in there at times, but produced a pocket of encouragement in the run-up to the interval aided by some uncharacteristic hesitancy from the German back three.
Maguire’s slide-rule pass found Abraham, with Rudiger getting in the way of his goalbound low shot before the Chelsea defender erred and lost Vardy following Loftus-Cheek’s perceptive pass, but the Leicester striker’s attempted lob over Marc Andre Ter Stegen was weak.
If was an ‘if only’ moment for Vardy, with the Sheffielder’s reaction after an early second-half chance suggesting that he should also have done better. Free in the box following Kieran Trippier’s cross, Vardy’s point-blank header drew a smart one-handed parry from Ter Stegen in the centre of goal.
The assertion and tempo came from England exclusively, with Abraham denied by a last-ditch Hummels intervention as the hosts took the game to their feted counterparts, but substitute Jesse Lingard spurned a late chance to win it for the hosts.
England: Pickford; Jones (Gomez 25), Stones, Maguire; Trippier (Walker 72), Livermore (Cork 86), Dier, Rose (Bertrand 71); Loftus-Cheek; Vardy (Lingard 86), Abraham (Rashford 60). Unused substitutes: Walker, Hart, Keane, Young, Cahill.
Germany: ter Stegen; Ginter, Hummels, Rüdiger; Kimmich, Gündogan (Rudy 86), Özil, Halstenberg; Draxler (Can 67), Werner (Wagner 73), Sané (Brandt 87). Unused substitutes: Trapp, Sule, Plattenhardt, Khedira, Leno, Stindl, Boateng, Gotze.
Referee: Pawel Raczkowski (Poland).