For 12 heady minutes we were transported back to Euro 2020 and England’s glorious run.
Ecstatic England fans danced in the aisles at Wembley and hugged each other as the goals flew past German goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen one by one.
For the first time all evening, Wembley came alive. It had been a subdued atmosphere, somewhere between a Nations League relegation vigil and a theater of apathy, but now the stadium was on its feet and England roared on.
England’s Jude Bellingham and Harry Maguire look downcast after a goal from Germany on Monday
Harry Kane completed a brilliant 12 minute comeback that offered England some optimism
But Germany’s late equalizer – and a terrible Nations League campaign – are a reminder that Gareth Southgate’s side is nowhere near as World Cup contenders
Any comeback from two goals to a 3-2 lead is special, but it’s especially sweet against old rivals like Germany, who were suddenly drunk from a dominant position and swinging at the ropes.
At the time, in addition to mocking the many English fans who left Wembley when Kai Havertz scored Germany’s second-place finish, there was palpable and unexpected optimism and faith.
Maybe the World Cup wouldn’t be so bad after all. Perhaps Gareth Southgate’s team of abundant talent would click. Maybe he knows how to make the right substitutions at the right times.
The prospect of watching the games from Qatar in the deepest, darkest of December, huddled on the couch instead of in shorts and sunglasses in the beer garden, suddenly seemed a little more appealing.
But then Nick Pope collapsed, Havertz tapped home, the Germans saved themselves as they usually do, and the mood in Wembley was like a balloon pierced.
Goalkeeper Nick Pope was guilty of Germany’s late equalizing goal by Kai Havertz. got tagged
The late goal was another reality check for England with the World Cup in Qatar approaching
The nation was brought back to Earth and reality struck again. There are clearly more questions than answers with this England team that has inexplicably deteriorated since Italy’s loss in the Euro final last year.
It just feels that Southgate’s time at the helm has reached its peak and his Three Lions side won’t be able to fulfill all our dreams and win the World Cup after making it to the 2018 semi-finals and 12 months ago came so close to the European Championship.
Frankly, based on this horrendous Nations League campaign, we will struggle to get out of the group and we will certainly lose to the first half-decent team we face if we make it to the knockout stage.
If England finish ahead of Wales, Iran and the United States in Group B, they will likely face Senegal in the last 16. Tricky but not insurmountable.
But then we’ll probably run headlong into France, the reigning world champions, in the quarter-finals and I’m afraid their team looks so much better than ours.
A lot of things worry me about the England team going to the World Cup in less than two months.
England fans traveled in droves to Milan on Friday night but were soon silenced
Vocally initially at the San Siro, England’s traveling contingent was soon silenced
A striker who scored 52 goals in the 2021 calendar year, albeit a significant number against minnows like San Marino, Andorra and Albania, seemed unable to find the net for most of this year.
Until that extraordinary sprint on Monday night, they had played 343 minutes without scoring and even longer without an open play out.
It is alarming if we can invoke Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and others.
As I stood in the Gods in San Siro on Friday night, watching England fail miserably at breaking down the Italian defenses, I wondered how they would hold up against the inevitably overcrowded defenses of their World Cup group opponents.
I fear a repeat of 2010, when England’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’ was led by the hopeless and authoritarian Fabio Capello and struggled to tear down the US and then Algeria before taking a 1-0 win over Slovenia.
They then crashed 4-1 against Germany, the first good side they encountered.
I’m afraid England are in for a replay of the 2010 World Cup when they struggled in the group and Wayne Rooney lashed out at fans who booed the team
England were beaten 4-1 by Germany – the first good side they faced – in the last-16 in 2010
England’s loyal support is always vocal wherever they play, but in Milan all the noise was gone within 15 minutes and if they don’t sing they aren’t happy.
Sentiment against Southgate is growing, as evidenced by the highly audible booing when he came to applaud us on Friday night. Whatever happens in Qatar, I don’t see him continuing until Euro 2024.
Those three goals against Germany at least mean England won’t enter the tournament as they haven’t scored in eight months, but something has to click and quickly.
What frustrates me the most is England’s stubborn reluctance to make a first pass or beat an opponent one-on-one.
They would be annoyingly predictable as they will get into an advanced position before turning around and playing a step 20 yards back.
What happened to the element of surprise that an opposition defense couldn’t reset itself?
Raheem Sterling and the England attacker really struggled to break down Italy last Friday
At one point against Germany they went back from a position close to the byline on the left, all the way back to Nick Pope in their own goal in the space of 10 seconds.
Another concern is defense. Contrary to the solid performance at Euro 2020, multiple players now seem like they have a flaw in them.
Harry Maguire was again the fall guy against Germany, getting a penalty and then giving the ball away in a ridiculously advanced position leading up to Havertz coming in for 2-0.
Ironically, the much-maligned defender hadn’t put a foot wrong until then. In fact, the English fans at Wembley sang “Home End” his song as he made key blocks, tackles and evictions.
He didn’t want to run, although he clearly struggled with an injury in the closing stages.
But his mistakes are the hallmark of a man whose confidence has been shattered since that painful penalty shootout against Italy.
Harry Maguire made two costly mistakes in the match in Germany and his confidence seems to be shot
He must be removed from the line of fire – I fear further failures at the World Cup, as he has not played often enough for Manchester United, will end his career in England.
At least Southgate did the sensible thing and put an end to that ridiculous experiment of playing Bukayo Saka out of position as a left-back.
Another positive – and those are rare at the moment – was the way Jude Bellingham looks very good in England’s midfield and arguably the best performer in both games this week.
Kalvin Phillips’ injury has done England a favor as it paves the way for Bellingham to come in and he is a more progressive player and England’s conservatism in midfield started to hold them back.
We will hold onto those glimmers of hope for the World Cup as we always do, but I fear it will be a huge disappointment without those long, summery days as a consolation.
Yet it will soon be Christmas.
Jude Bellingham was outstanding against Germany and seems to be a fixture in English midfield