Gareth Southgate was roughly five minutes into his press conference to preview Englands match against Belgium when the news filtered through that Germany football royalty, as far as the World Cup is concerned had been dethroned and he was asked for his thoughts about a result that could probably encapsulate what is known as schadenfreude in the country that invented the term.

The England managers first reaction was to express his considerable surprise and if, deep down, there was a measure of excitement about the World Cup losing one of the teams that historically leave England with an inferiority complex, he suppressed it well. He was in Russia last summer, he pointed out, to see Joachim Löws team win the Confederations Cup and, two days before that victory, he had flown to Poland to watch Germany beat Spain in the final of the European Under-21 Championship.
Southgate is such an admirer of Germanys national team, indeed he has trawled through hours of tapes to study their secrets, right down to the small details such as how many free‑kicks Authentic Jerry Rice Jersey the four-times world champions concede in their own half (answer: very few). Authentic Marko Dano Jersey Weve learned an enormous amount from studying Germany, not least last summer, and implemented that, the England manager said. Indirectly, theyve had a big bearing on what were doing now.
Ultimately, though, the prospect of meeting Germany in the quarter‑finals is no more. In sport and in life you have to keep evolving, was Southgates take. Theyve been ahead for about a minute and a half, in total, of their three matches and its unusual to see them struggle as much as they have. But they have played teams who have been tactically very good. They were close to the wire against Sweden and they have not been able to break Korea down. It just shows that any team can be vulnerable.
More than that, Germanys final position as the wooden-spoon team in Group F their worst performance at a major tournament since Franz Beckenbauer accused them of tired, junk football at Euro 2000 validates Southgates views about the practicalities of trying to plot a route through the tournament and why, specifically, his policy all the way along has been that you cant take anything for granted.
Ever since England beat Panama to seal qualification for the knockout stages he has faced questions about whether it would be better to finish as Group G runners-up, the logic being that it would mean avoiding Germany or Brazil in the quarter‑finals.
Yet he has never wavered from his view that the only policy should be to keep winning, keep building momentum and if Belgium are taking a different view, as appears to be the case, let them feel that way. England, in Southgates mind, would be making a dangerous mistake if they started thinking too far ahead of themselves. Weve not won a knockout game since 2006, he said. So, why we are starting to plot which would be a better venue for our semi-final is beyond me really.
The message was clear before a game between two sides who have already qualified with victories from their opening fixtures and have identical goal difference. England are ahead because of the fair-play rules, with only two bookings compared to Belgiums three, and Southgate joked that if I go and headbutt Roberto [Martínez] in the last five minutes the English public would know he was being disingenuous about wanting to win the group.
More likely, he is being true to his word. Harry Kane trained with a first‑team bib in Englands morning session and, as such, is expected to start even though Southgate has given serious consideration to withholding the player whose five goals puts him at the top of the golden boot scoring chart.
Southgate never announces his team officially until an hour before kick-off but he is acutely aware that Kane wants to be involved and has had to balance his captains wishes with the possibility Englands first knockout game could take place on Monday, four days after the Belgium game.