TV View: Southgate keeps his head when all around are losing theirs

England’s party pooper wants to keep a lid on things . . . good luck with that

 England supporters celebrate their win over  Germany at Wembley. Photograph: Getty Images

England supporters celebrate their win over Germany at Wembley. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Jürgen Klinsmann did his best to calm the BBC lads down, urging them not to get carried away because there was still a long, long way to go, but they were having none of it. Gary Lineker could hardly contain his glee when he showed us England’s route to the final, “the easier side of the draw”, Alan Shearer was experiencing dangerously high levels of exhilaration, while Rio Ferdinand just spontaneously combusted. “IT FEELS LIKE IT’S GOING TO BE OUR TOURNAMENT!!!!!”

But look, even if you’d decked yerself out in Lederhosen for the game, it was hard not to, at the very least, understand why they might have been just a bit chuffed.

The BBC had, after all, opened their coverage with a quite mournful montage set to a melancholic tune by the name of Pockets of Light, very few of which there have been in England’s history with Germany, Gary noted. He mentioned 1966 alright, but he’ll have Daily Mail readers accusing him of being unpatriotic for not giving 1939-1945 a plug.

“If only the Germans had a name for schadenfreude,” he said to Jürgen Klinsmann having listed all his nation’s knock-out successes over England since 1966, Jürgen looking a little puzzled by the gag, but not having the heart to say, “actually Gary . . .”

Team news. “Remember, I’m just the messenger,” said Gary, so you sensed he was about to reveal a starting XI that would leave the nation incensed. And so it proved, the youthful quartet who were to win the tournament for England, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho, all left twiddling their metatarsals on the bench. Gary peered over his spectacles and informed the viewers that Gareth Southgate had selected “seven defensive-minded players plus the goalkeeper”, as if he didn’t already dislike conservatives enough.

Over on RTÉ, Didi Hamann was beaming. “I wasn’t too confident before, but I’m lot more confident now after seeing England’s line-up,” he said, anticipating there being an entire length of Wembley between England’s front three and back seven for the bulk of the game.

Prediction time. Damien Duffer was caught, if you excuse us, in no man’s land. “I’ve had a disaster with my predictions, anyone I fancy seems to get knocked out,” he said. “I’m starting to think I’m a bad omen for these teams . . . so, I’ll go England.” Rascal.

Anthems time and it was nice to hear Wembley being grown up and respectful towards the German tune. Kidding. God almighty, what is it with these people? And they were off again when the players on both sides took the knee. But sure look, Hungary has been Euro 2020’s sole problem.

Off we went and while the first half only lasted 45 minutes, it felt like an hour and a half. Pretty? No.

England’s Harry Kane celebrates scoring their second goal. Photograph: Getty Images
England’s Harry Kane celebrates scoring their second goal. Photograph: Getty Images

Harry Kane mucked up a decent-ish chance just before the break, so he was the main topic of conversation among the BBC panel, Shearer worried about his lack of mobility, suggesting, not in actual words, that it was akin to a super trawler.

Kane was in danger of having to come off in the 57th minute when he picked up a knock, which left Jermaine Jenas fretting because he reckoned he would be needed for the penalty shoot-out, such was his level of confidence about the game actually producing a goal.

And then.

Guy Mowbray: “I’d a feeling it would be a slow burner, but the flame’s gone out here.”

Seconds later: Raheem Sterling scores.

Mowbray: “There’s your spark, Wembley ignites!”

Just a bit before that goal, incidentally, Spurs old boy Graham Roberts tweeted: “Southgate should take Sterling off greedy bastard not a team player.” And then Kane scored, thereby going from an immobile has-been to the patron saint of England in the blink of an eye. It is, indeed, a funny old game.

In between those scores, Thomas Müller was clean through on goal and . . . stop the lights.

“What a time to be alive,” said Gary at full-time, Rio reckoning England deserved the win because its people were due some happiness after the pandemic which he seemed to think had only hit Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Hounslow, Germany remaining untouched. “You wanna fank ‘em, we needed that as a nation,” he said.

The only one keeping his head was Southgate. “I’m the party pooper because if we don’t capitalise on that on Saturday, it won’t count for anything,” he told the Beeb’s Kelly Somers.

She congratulated him on putting the past to bed, and then asked him if the win made up for him missing his penalty against Germany in Euro 96. Poor Gareth. Even though it’s coming home in 2021, they’ll never let him forget.

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