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Club news

Fletch's Euros column: It's wide open


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth legend Steve Fletcher said England must not “rest on their laurels” if they are to keep progressing in the European Championship.

In keeping with the rest of the country, Fletcher was delighted to see the Three Lions book a place in the quarter-finals after seeing off Germany on Tuesday.

Second-half goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane earned them a 2-0 win and set up a last-eight encounter with Ukraine in Rome on Saturday.

It was their first victory over the old enemy in a knockout tie since England famously beat West Germany in the World Cup final in 1966.

Writing in his latest Euro 2020 column, Fletcher said he felt England had still not hit the heights and would need to in order to stand any chance of winning the tournament.

Cherries’ appearance record holder Fletcher, whose grandfather Jack Howe was capped by England in the 1940s, will be penning his opinions for afcb.co.uk throughout the tournament.

If you took the goals out of it, there wasn’t too much between the teams. It was delicately-poised until we scored the first goal.

We didn’t start too well and they imposed themselves on us. It seemed to take us a while to get into the game.

Harry Maguire had a couple of good headed chances and you would have expected him to do better.

Both goalkeepers made big saves in the first half, Manuel Neuer from Raheem Sterling and Jordan Pickford from Timo Werner.

As much as Germany looked dangerous, I thought we probably just edged the first half although there was very little in it.

They started the second half well and looked to be getting a foothold in the game. You could almost feel it coming from them.

We defended well but we weren’t holding the ball up front. I thought Harry Kane was very lethargic and off his game until he scored.

We didn’t seem to be building any momentum because the ball kept coming back.

You sensed it was going to be another one of those ‘here we go again’ scenarios. I thought they were going to nick a goal.

They came very close to breaking the deadlock when Pickford made an outstanding save from Kai Havertz.

It was always in the balance and the first goal was always going to be crucial.

It just needed one moment of good play or one pass to open them up.

That pass came from Luke Shaw and his cross for Sterling’s opener was top class. Sterling is Johnny on the spot at the moment and it was a cool finish.

With 15 minutes to go, I was still thinking it was a long time and we needed a second goal because you know how relentless the Germans can be.

You almost knew it was going to be our night when Thomas Muller went clean through and missed. That was a ‘real heart in your mouth’ moment.

The second goal sunk them but you still worried it could have been offside and the Germans were going to put a spanner in the works.

It was a huge relief when you saw Kane was onside by a few inches.

Like the majority of people in the country, I spoke about Jack Grealish before the tournament started and said he could be a big player for us.

He can be a matchwinner, whether that’s nicking a goal or supplying one, and he proved it again by crossing for Kane to get the second.

It’s a cliché but you’ve got to take your chances when they come along and we did.

It was a great feeling to win and to get one over our arch rivals. Behind Scotland, Germany have been our biggest rivals through history and have always been our nemesis.

It was great for the nation and the best thing of all was having a crowd in the stadium and seeing people enjoying themselves and celebrating.

I know Wembley was only half full but the scenes were amazing.

It must have been an unbelievable atmosphere for the players because it would have been the first time any of them would have played in front of a crowd of that magnitude since before the pandemic.

It’s a bit like in the last World Cup and the pathway to the final is there. But we said that in 2018 and we stumbled in the semi-final against Croatia.

We have a massive chance but we need to be more proactive. We need to be better in the final third. We didn’t flow and didn’t get into top gear.

I know the Germans were resilient but we’ve still got a lot more to show.

I just hope we don’t rest on our laurels and think we’re there because there’s still a lot of football to be played.

You only have to look at what’s happened in the past few days. We’ve seen France, Holland and Portugal go out and Spain and Italy given big scares.

The tournament is wide open.

Nations like Ukraine, Denmark, Switzerland and Czech Republic weren’t expected to go far but have shown they can produce on the big occasion.

Every team fancies their chances and Ukraine is going to be a tough game. It can’t come quickly enough…roll on Saturday night!

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