England are celebrating a mammoth European Championship victory against Germany after Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane fired Gareth Southgate’s men into the quarter-finals.
For many onlookers facing Die Mannschaft brought up painful memories, from the 1970 World Cup to the ghost goal in 2010 as well as the Italia 90 and Euro 96 semi-final shootout heartbreaks.
But England’s players showed few signs of anxiety, nerves or baggage in the build-up or at Wembley, heeding boss Southgate’s advice to write their own history as Sterling and Kane struck in a famous 2-0 round-of-16 win.
The din inside the national stadium belied the 41,973 in attendance and the reward for just their second ever Euros knockout triumph is a quarter-final clash against Sweden or Ukraine in Rome this Saturday.
England will head to Italy on the crest of a wave after digging deep in front of a partisan home crowd, with goalkeeper Jordan Pickford producing some important saves before Sterling broke the deadlock in the second half.
The 26-year-old turned in Luke Shaw’s driven cross home to send supporters wild, but he was soon panicking after his loose ball led Thomas Muller to race through.
But the Germany veteran – who scored twice against England in their 2010 World Cup exit – inexplicably dragged wide and Kane opened his account for the tournament by directing home fan favourite Jack Grealish’s cross.
It was a meek end to Joachim Low’s impressive 15-year reign as Germany boss, while for Southgate, victory must have been particularly sweet after his penalty miss at Euro 96.
This was England’s biggest home match since that semi-final and his move to a 3-4-3 formation initially caused concerns, with Declan Rice booked for bringing down Leon Goretzka as the visitors all too easily threatened.
The England midfielder was booked as German calls for a red card fell on deaf ears before they wasted the well-placed free-kick.
Southgate’s side settled after those early scares, with electric Bukayo Saka getting fans on their feet and Sterling forcing Manuel Neuer into a diving save from 25 yards.
Harry Maguire’s header from the resulting corner was far more comfortable for the Germany captain to deal with and the England defender powered over another attempt during a string of ineffective set pieces.
Die Mannschaft were not looking comfortable defensively but nor were the hosts, with Pickford spreading himself well after Kai Havertz slipped Timo Werner through.
Kalvin Phillips joined fellow midfielder Rice in referee Danny Makkelie’s notebook towards the end of a half which was a Hummels touch away from the dream England ending.
Sterling picked up a loose pass and darted forwards, with the ball eventually ricocheting up for Kane to take a touch past Neuer in the six-yard box before Hummels crucially intercepted.
Pickford was forced into a fine reaction save by Havertz shortly after the second half got under way, with Kane hurt in a collision with Hummels during a cumbersome England start.
Southgate’s side were looking lacklustre as the clock ticked over the hour mark, leading substitute Grealish’s name to be chanted as the need for fresh impetus became clear.
The playmaker received a huge ovation when replacing teenager Saka in the 69th minute – and six minutes later he was involved in the move that sent Wembley wild.
Sterling made a smart run and passed to front man Kane, who played over to Grealish. The substitute passed on to overlapping Luke Shaw, whose first-time driven cross was turned home by Sterling.
Germany were rocked but soon threatened an equaliser.
Maguire was booked for a foul and was relieved to see the free-kick that followed squandered, before Sterling nearly undid his good work.
His lax ball led to a German break and Muller to go free on goal, only for the veteran to somehow drag the ball wide when one-on-one with Pickford.
Relief turned to ecstasy in the 86th minute. Shaw won the ball in midfield and played left to Grealish, whose whipped ball Kane managed to head home.
Wembley was in disbelief as German attacks were rebuffed, with the final whistle followed by ‘football’s coming home’ echoing around the ground.