areth Southgate publicly staked his reputation on Harry Maguire before kick-off against Germany and the England manager was not reimbursed despite rallying his players to produce a stunning comeback in a 3-3 thriller at Wembley.
The Manchester United captain was guilty of key errors which saw Ilkay Gundogan and Kai Havertz score before his teammates battled against Luke Shaw, Mason Mount and a Harry Kane penalty.
It was the response required from a side that seemed sleepwalking into a World Cup after being relegated to their UEFA Nations League group last week, and are now six games without a win – the longest streak in their story. The Wembley crowd was at a low ebb with just under 20 minutes to go and fans were left to listen wryly to their German counterparts sing “It’s Coming Home”.
But the tide has turned. Shaw smashed home a cross from Reece James – reminiscent of his European Championship final goal against Italy – to lift the crowd before substitute pair Bukayo Saka and Mount teamed up to produce a superb equalizer minutes later, the Chelsea midfielder heading home a fine 20-yard shot.
England thought they had won when Nico Schlotterbeck knocked out Jude Bellingham in the box and Kane struck an unstoppable penalty – his 51st England goal, three on Wayne Rooney’s all-time record – with eight minutes remaining. Unfortunately, Nick Pope knocked down an effort from Serge Gnabry to allow Havertz to equalize soon after for some of the spoils.
However, despite the blow, it was the morale boost the team, staff and fans needed for the pre-World Cup final.
The team that started the game seemed to be the best indication yet of who Southgate should choose for England’s opener against Iran on November 21.
Maguire will remain a huge talking point, despite public support from Southgate, and will need more games for United before the flight to Qatar. That he gets them remains another concern.
The decision to leave in-form AC Milan defender Fikayo Tomori out of the matchday squad has led to further criticism from Southgate and he can expect more in the coming weeks.
There are now concerns over Pope, who appeared to have the role of Jordan Pickford’s first understudy stitched up ahead of a shaky display tonight, potentially leaving the door open for Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale.
Eric Dier will never be more confident of starting the first group game after back-to-back starts, while Shaw, Saka and Mount could have done little more to claim a starting spot. Phil Foden could be looking over his shoulder.
Overall, however, England changed the narrative. There were more positives and negatives in the last warm-up game before a major tournament, and that was the order of the day in what was a no-win game.
The performance breathed some life – and refreshed some hope – into what looked increasingly like an obsolete England side.