London (AFP) – England beat Germany 2-0 on Tuesday to reach the Euro 2020 quarter-finals and end decades of hurt against their bitter rivals, setting up a showdown with Ukraine for a place in the last four.
Raheem Sterling broke the deadlock at Wembley with a quarter of an hour remaining and Harry Kane finally opened his tournament account to end the contest.
England beat the Germans to win the 1966 World Cup final on home soil but their major tournament history has been littered with painful exits against them since.
They were eliminated from the 1970, 1990 and 2010 World Cups by Germany, who also beat them in the Euro 96 semi-finals at Wembley.
The Germans, who have won the European Championship three times in their illustrious history, had chances to score, notably a first-half effort by Timo Werner and a golden late chance for Thomas Mueller, but lacked a cutting edge.
England, who themselves looked short of inspiration for much of the contest, finally broke the deadlock when Luke Shaw crossed for Sterling to finish from close range, notching his third goal of the competition.
Mueller should have equalised when Kai Havertz’s pass sent him clean through, but the Bayern Munich star rolled his shot wide and fell to the turf in dismay.
Kane made Germany pay in the 86th minute as he finished off a lethal England counter-attack with a diving header past Manuel Neuer from substitute Jack Grealish’s cross.
That was the first goal of the tournament for the Tottenham man, who has been a shadow of the player who won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
– ‘Absolutely immense’ –
“It’s a brilliant afternoon,” England boss Gareth Southgate told the BBC. “We talked about bringing enjoyment to the nation really and afternoons like this are what that’s about.
“The players were absolutely immense, right the way through the team and the fans were as well. Only 40,000, but it’s as good an atmosphere as I can remember at Wembley.
“We played extremely well. I think we deserved the win, but I’ve had to say to them (the players) straight away, look, ‘I’m the party-pooper because if we don’t capitalise on that on Saturday now, then it doesn’t count for anything’.”
England, World Cup semi-finalists three years ago, have been solid if unspectacular this tournament but they have yet to concede a goal and the draw is opening up invitingly for them.
They head to Rome on Saturday for a quarter-final against Ukraine, who defeated Sweden 2-1 after extra time in Glasgow thanks to a 121st-minute winner from Artem Dovbyk.
Oleksandr Zinchenko put Ukraine ahead at Hampden but Emil Forsberg equalised for Sweden before the break with his fourth goal in three games.
Serhiy Sydorchuk hit the post for Ukraine in the second half while Forsberg twice struck the woodwork, but the dismissal of Marcus Danielson gave Ukraine the initiative late on.
The Sweden centre-back was sent off on 98 minutes when his studs caught Artem Besedin’s knee with his follow-through, a yellow card changed to red after a VAR review.
As penalties loomed, Dovbyk stooped to head in a Zinchenko cross and snatch victory for Ukraine.
– Loew exit –
The Wembley defeat was a bitter disappointment for Germany and brought the curtain down on Joachim Loew’s 15-year reign as Germany coach.
Germany won the 2014 World Cup but crashed out at the group stage four years later in Russia and have now made their earliest exit at a European Championship since 2004.
Loew, who is to be replaced by former assistant Hansi Flick, said the result was a “huge disappointment”, bemoaning his side’s inability to take their chances.
“The players are gutted. It’s very quiet in the dressing room,” said the 61-year-old. “In games like this, it is crucial to convert all goal chances, which we didn’t do, neither through Timo Werner nor Thomas Mueller.
“I don’t blame anyone. Normally Mueller would have put that away. It’s unusual that he didn’t, but these things happen.”
Germany captain Neuer paid tribute to his departing manager.
“Joachim Loew has shaped a great era,” he said. “It’s very sad that it ends like this for him.”
The first quarter-finals will be played on Friday, when Switzerland take on Spain in Saint Petersburg and Belgium face Italy in Munich.
The Czech Republic play Denmark in the other last-eight tie on Saturday in Baku.