TONo empire has fallen not once, but twice. This could have been Germany’s great respite, the fiery statement that opened a clear path to the final for them, and a chance to soften the scars inflicted by their catastrophe in Russia 2018. Though it had a completely different tone to the humiliation at the hands of Korea. from the south. in Kazan, it was more painful in a sense: the Joachim Löw era faded into ecstatic Wembley, of all places, and the sight of a Thomas Müller hitting the touchline after being substituted showed that ultimately, there could be no quick route to ultimate success.
Müller was reassigned to Löw’s team after a two-year absence from this tournament and, given his previous for defeating England in the round of 16, his return to the starting eleven was a bad omen. When Kai Havertz sacked him in the 81st minute, Müller had his chance: Raheem Sterling may have put England ahead, but now was the time for Germany to regain their former spoiler status. Forty yards behind him, Sterling, aware of the likely outcome and feeling guilty after conceding possession, clutched his head before falling to the ground.
But Müller fired wide, against the expectations of all reasonable spectators, and it was his head that sank deep into his hands. Müller has been here many times before: he knew quite well what this meant.
Ultimately, you will also know that this was not your fault. Löw had promised that Germany would make an unrecognizable performance of the confusing mess that swept through the group stage against Hungary, suggesting that England would attack and make room for the buccaneers. But he could never have expected Gareth Southgate to play into his hands and allow Müller to direct traffic as he had against Portugal 10 days earlier – instead, England were cautious, content to take the lead in bursts before coming up with two goals with one incision Germany’s leaden defense could not handle. It came to feel completely predictable.
However, the feeling persisted that, if Germany had consistently asserted itself, this tie was there to be won. They created the best chances, putting England goals aside: Jordan Pickford set out to deny Timo Werner before half-time, and shortly after he made one of the best saves of the tournament to deny Havertz. As the ball moved through midfield at high speed, England looked so carefree and ill-equipped to deal with the pace at the back.
But Germany’s problem for the past two and a half weeks has been an inability to wrest control. They were rushed and rushed – exciting in bursts, but not methodical enough to dictate the pace. The more complicated the procedures became, the more likely England’s marginally higher levels of composure were to succeed. A few blinks aside, two excellent crosses from Joshua Kimmich and a contribution from Robin Gosens to Havertz’s opportunity, little was seen of his lauded defenses, which were partly nullified by Southgate’s decision to equalize Germany, but perhaps also blocked by a difficult-to-decipher approach.
Faced with conservative opponents, did Löw want Germany to attack or to sit down to avoid being countered? They never seemed committed to either of them, and once again, there was a sense of hoping for the best. Substitutes were thrown against Hungary, just as the veterans were brought out of exile in May, and everything changed. This time there was no fluke, no prankster to play, and no rescue act from one of Löw’s stalwarts.
Perhaps Müller will stay with Hansi Flick, who knew how to make him purr at Bayern Munich. He will most likely leave the international scene with a similar regret to Löw’s: that even if nothing could match Brazil’s 2014 highs, Germany has essentially failed since. It’s a sad ending for Löw, and it means his reign will be difficult to read in its entirety – he dealt a phenomenal hand in the first half of his 15-year tenure, leveraging those resources masterfully, only to stagger when riches dried up.
For anyone dabbling in the art of English arrogance, it’s a rewarding image. But the image of Jamal Musiala, once in the hands of the FA, replacing the furious Müller can still remain in mind. The talented Musiala had no chance to affect this game but his time will come. Germany, being Germany, will rebuild its citadel.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism