Date: 24th June 2021 at 7:07pm
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The group stage of Euro 2020 came to an end on Wednesday evening as undoubtedly the most exciting day of the tournament so far resulted in England being pitted against Germany in the last 16 next week. 

After Spain and Sweden had secured qualification from Group E, it was the turn of the ‘group of death’ and it didn’t disappoint as two 2-2 draws ensured that Germany, Portugal and France all progressed, much to the disappointment of Hungary who twice lead the Germans.

The results meant that Joachim Low’s side will play England, who had faced the prospect of playing all four Group F sides at different stages throughout the games.

As if a game between England and Germany needed any more pressure on it, the winner of the tie will face a rather favourable run to the final at Wembley on July 11.

England fans, however, have been quick to liken the scenario to the Three Lions’ crushing Euro ’96 exit at the hands of the Germans.

Despite topping Group D and being one of only two teams yet to concede a goal, England boss Gareth Southgate has been criticised by some fans and pundits for the team’s cautious mentality and lack of attacking impetus.

Although England are blessed with some of Europe’s most exciting attacking talent, the knockout stage provides a different test for Southgate’s side and his pragmatism and conservative tactics may give the Three Lions the best chance of progression.

Below, we pick three players that Southgate simply can’t afford to not pick against Germany…

Harry Maguire

The Manchester United captain missed England’s first two games with injury but returned to the starting line up for the victory over Czech Republic and impressed in doing so. His presence at the back allowed England to push further forward and his abilities on the ball were crucial to many of their attacks. Partnered with John Stones, England could have a solid defensive partnership, with both players also carrying a threat at the other end of the pitch. While Tyrone Mings did little wrong during his two games at centre-back, nobody expected him to keep his place once Maguire returned, and the commanding 28-year-old will have been pleased with his performance. The attacking talents of Serge Gnabry, Kai Havertz and co. mean that England will have to be at their absolute best defensively, and Maguire simply has to be part of the backline.

Jack Grealish

The Aston Villa midfielder was another player who didn’t start either of the first two games, however this was purely a tactical decision as Grealish was used from the bench against Scotland. Fans all over the country had been begging Southgate to start the 25-year-old and he did not disappoint against Czech Republic. Demonstrating his characteristic ability on the ball, Grealish did well to get beyond the Czech back line and lifted a ball to the back post where it was met by Raheem Sterling to score his and England’s second goal of the tournament. Similarly to Phil Foden, Grealish offers something different to the more dynamic options of Sterling and Marcus Rashford and, with Mason Mount facing an uncertain week before the game, the Villa man could start in the more advanced midfield role against Germany.

Jadon Sancho

Only Gareth Southgate knows truly why Jadon Sancho has played a grand total of just six minutes at the tournament so far. Not even in the matchday squad for the game against Croatia, and an unused substitute against Scotland, Sancho finally made it onto the pitch in the 84th minute against Czech Republic, but for many people it was too late. Despite scoring 16 goals and registering 20 assists for Borussia Dortmund last season, Sancho has not done enough to persuade Southgate he should start. However, with Sterling having played every minute of all three games so far, Sancho could be preferred in what promises to be a hard fought and close match.

Whatever combination of stars Southgate opts for against Germany, it is a certainty that he will never please all England fans, such is the plethora of attacking talent he has at his disposal.

With England facing the hardest game of their tournament so far, however, Southgate may have to utilise all of his squad if they are to progress to the quarter finals.

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