Kalvin Phillips wants Germany game to start winning before World Cup | England
Kalvin Phillips needs no encouragement to look back on the exhilarating and dizzying summer evening that took place the last time England played Germany. They were riding a wave at Euro 2020 and so was he: it was just the midfielder’s 10th cap and, after a hesitant start, he produced the kind of insistent, imperious performance that had so quickly become a fixture of the national team.
“It was an amazing day,” he said of the 2-0 win at Wembley. “I still have memories of it, and the reaction afterwards too. It was one of the best games I’ve played; hopefully we can have the same game in the next few days and get another good result.
It’s not beyond England, although appearances in Budapest on Saturday suggested otherwise. Phillips, 26, has had little time to settle in Hungary as a late substitute but is expected to feature against Hansi Flick’s side from the start. While roaring in the European Championship, this time it feels more like a standing start.
Last year, Phillips arrived after an outstanding personal and collective season with a Leeds side that won hearts under Marcelo Bielsa; the backdrop to this summer’s Nations League challenges was a relegation battle that was navigated a hair’s breadth and a campaign in which he missed 16 games with hamstring problems .
“Obviously last season we were playing very well as a team and [this time] we had difficult times with results,” he says. “I think I read a stat the other day that said Leeds had the most players out with injury throughout the season. But right at the end it was worth it, we stayed up and that was a great feeling too.
Chances are he’s channeling it for good. If the shootout loss to Italy is not taken into account, the loss to Hungary was his first as an England player. Considering he spent 11 minutes on the pitch, it was hard to lose that unbeaten record, which had stood for 19 appearances. Phillips became crucial to Gareth Southgate’s plans and it was easy to see why at Puskas Arena. England struggled in midfield for most of the evening; Jude Bellingham, who would be better used in a three than a two, has at times looked lost and the dynamic influence Phillips can wield alongside Declan Rice was conspicuous by his absence.
A capable, but barely stellar, Hungarian side have hammered home the point that England aren’t good enough to assume they can stutter and still stay a few notches below their best. “I think the performance is an eye opener,” says Phillips. “We know it won’t be a breeze when we go to the World Cup or the next games. We know that we will come up against difficult teams, who will defend well against us.
“I think Germany are quite the opposite. They will attack us, try to get behind us and create a lot of chances. As long as we defend well, I don’t think we have a problem.
It was an analysis that slightly underestimated a smart and proactive exit from the Hungarians. No one could seriously argue that England had their backline at full strength. But England must distinguish between playing the occasion with their opponents on Tuesday; a packed house at the Allianz Arena in Munich will have its own intense side, as this game rarely has anything else.
The stakes will feel higher. On the pitch, Germany are in reasonable form after draws in Italy and, in March, the Netherlands. Before that, they had won eight consecutive games, but against more modest opposition; a page is turned on the sorry way Joachim Löw’s reign ended at Wembley.
For Phillips, all old scores go after the rejuvenated enemy in front of them. “We’d like to go out there and win the game and not have to worry about having to beat them because of history and things like that,” he said. “But every time we play Germany it will be a big game.”
Phillips showed he could handle them. He doesn’t completely dismiss the idea of England players feeling tired at the end of such a nerve-wracking domestic season – ‘You could say that, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse’ – but there will be no explanation for failure. arrive in Qatar properly prepared.
“We want to continue on a winning streak before the World Cup,” he said. England have their best chance of doing so if Phillips and Rice are in tandem to cover every blade of grass, providing the defensive awareness required in close encounters. To find the feeling of 12 months ago would be, for the player and the team, very opportune.