Three key battles in England's Euro 2020 clash with Germany

June 28, 2021 | 09:40
Old foes England and Germany face off in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Tuesday with the victors knowing they will then be favourites to go on and reach the final thanks to a kind-looking draw.
England's forward Jadon Sancho (R) and teammates take part in a training session at St George's Park in Burton-on-Trent on June 27, 2021 during the UEFA EURO 2020 football competition. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
England's forward Jadon Sancho (R) and teammates take part in a training session at St George's Park in Burton-on-Trent on June 27, 2021 during the UEFA EURO 2020 football competition. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

Neither side has hit top form during the tournament so far, but England are confident of beating the Germans in the knockout stage of a major tournament for the first time since 1966 in front of 45,000 fans at Wembley.

AFP Sport looks at three key battles where the game could be won or lost.

Harry Kane v Antonio Ruediger

Alongside 2014 World Cup winners Mats Hummels and Matthias Ginter in the German defence, Ruediger will be tasked with ensuring Harry Kane's scoreless streak at Euro 2020 continues.

Despite still having to wear a mask to protect a facial injury suffered in April, Ruediger was outstanding as Chelsea won the Champions League last month.

He has also been the Germans' standout centre-back at the Euro, but was caught in no-man's land when Adam Szalai headed in Hungary's first goal in Wednesday's nerve-shredding 2-2 draw.

In six meetings between the pair at club level, Kane has scored only once from open play for Tottenham Hotspur.

The England captain has been criticised for his sluggish displays in the group stage, where he managed just one shot on target.

However, Kane insists he is hitting his peak physical condition in time for the knockout phase and England need their skipper to come good at the right time.

John Stones v Kai Havertz

Havertz got the better of Stones to score the winner for Chelsea against Manchester City in the Champions League final last month and cement his status as one of European football's rising stars.

The 22-year-old rode to his country's rescue with key goals in the 4-2 drubbing of Portugal and the first equaliser in the fightback against Hungary.

Havertz is blessed with the talent to effortlessly ghost into dangerous scoring situations without seeming to break sweat.

Stones knows only too well of that threat as he was pulled out of position for Chelsea's record signing to deliver on his £71 million ($99 million) move from Bayer Leverkusen and win the biggest prize in European club football.

The Manchester City defender has refound his form this season after a difficult few years.

Much of the credit for Stones' resurgence was given to his centre-back partner Ruben Dias, who won the football writers' player of the year award in England.

But Stones has shown he can stand on his own two feet in helping to keep three clean sheets in the group stage.

Jordan Pickford v Manuel Neuer

If one of the two nations came into the tournament with doubts over their goalkeeper, it was England.

Neuer has five times been voted the world's best goalkeeper, but has been exposed by his defence in conceding five goals in three games.

The German captain has had a few humiliating experiences for his country of late.

He was dispossessed deep inside the opposition half for South Korea's Son Heung-min to round off an embarrassing group stage exit at the 2018 World Cup.

Spain also put six goals past the Bayern Munich 'keeper last November and minnows North Macedonia poached a shock 2-1 win in March.

Pickford was one of England's heroes of an unexpected run to the World Cup semi-finals three years ago.

A series of high-profile errors have followed since at club level for Everton, but Gareth Southgate's faith in Pickford has been rewarded with England yet to concede a goal at Euro 2020.

AFP

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional