Thomas Muller miss shatters Germany’s aura of always delivering on big stage

Thomas Muller miss shatters Germany’s aura of always delivering on big stage
The Bayern Munich forward raced clear but incredibly spurned a chance for Die Mannschaft to equalise as the Three Lions ran out 2-0 winners

Thomas Muller collapsed to his knees, his head tilted backwards and hands over them with anguish plastered across his face. It was a portrait of missed opportunity, of a moment gone and the game surrendered.

With 80 minutes on the clock, Kai Havertz superbly released the Bayern Munich forward after a stray Raheem Sterling pass.

Five minutes earlier, he had been England’s hero, their decisive edge as he finished off Luke Shaw’s brilliant cross to put them ahead in an awfully tense encounter.

But as Havertz worked the ball to Muller, a disbelieving Sterling bent his knees and covered his mouth. Surely not? Germany couldn’t respond so quickly. Not so soon and not like this.

Straight through on goal ahead of the two defenders chasing him, Muller astonishingly dragged his shot wide from the edge of the penalty area.

That was it. A missed opportunity. A moment gone. The game surrendered.

In the background, Sterling let out a scream and seemed to say a little prayer. Germany, having not really looked like they had an idea of how they were going to score against a defensively geared England, were gifted a way and bungled it.

This was the anaemic version of themselves, as seen against France in their opening group match.

The atmosphere was hostile for Germany, a sea of white coating Wembley bar a tiny clutch of black, red and gold flags that persistently swayed.

Their national anthem and every touch was booed, every tussle being screamed as a foul for England.

Despite the toxicity, Joachim Low’s men started in a composed and assured manner, cutting through the hosts centrally, but without troubling them.

Thomas Muller reacts after his miss against England

That superiority was short-lived before Bukayo Saka ignited England, who came alive at deadball situations.

It seemed quite counter-intuitive for Germany to continue providing set-piece opportunities for Gareth Southgate’s side, who count it as a strength.

With England opting for an overly cautious line-up to stunt their opponents’ overloads out wide, and featuring a hologram of Harry Kane up front for the majority of the encounter, Low’s side could have upped the ante and gone for the kill.

But they had more stagnant domination in the second half, with nothing to show for their control of the match but a Havertz screamer that was wonderfully saved by Pickford.

Once Sterling scored on 75, there was a sense Germany would not react as they needed to.

When the ball was at Muller’s feet, that was painted as a big lie… until he brushed his effort wide.

Thomas Muller reacts after his miss against England

Kane, anonymous for the greatest swathe of play, added a second shortly after.

There was irony and a lesson in that for Germany, who had more of the ball and more total shots.

England turned up with a plan – even if it was a cautious and unpopular one – that followed the blueprint.

Germany, with all the versions we’ve seen of them at this Euros and over the past four years, have reduced the Turniermannschaft myth.

As Muller dropped to his knees, so too did that aura of them always knowing what, how and when to do what is needed on a major stage.


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