England 1 Germany 2
A crowd of 77,768 is a new attendance record for an England Women’s game but a less favourable one persists: one win in seven. At the death, Klara Buhl slotted low beneath Mary Earps after turning an out-of-form Steph Houghton and England, for all their late pressure, will hear that statistic a little longer.
“One in seven is totally unacceptable,” said Phil Neville, the England manager. “It is not what I see as success and we need to do something about it very quickly. We can talk about the emotional highs of the World Cup, but when you get into November that becomes an excuse. And we’re not having any excuses. I’ve got to take responsibility. Start with me and finish with me.”
It had been a difficult of an evening, to say the least, but for the biggest women’s football crowd since London 2012 there was at least one worthwhile moment. There was no one else it could have been and somehow no other finish would have felt apt, either. As England emerged from a bruising half-hour period where they had been comprehensively outplayed by the two-times world champions, Ellen White, the joint-World Cup golden boot winner, plunged into the sliding, toe-poked finish that defined her summer. Kiera Walsh’s flighted delivery was timed to perfection, and White was similarly punctual. Trains and tubes and trams can only dream of exhibiting the kind of mechanical reliability White has for England.
But there were issues. Nikita Parris has now missed all of her last three penalties, and England their last four when you count Houghton’s in the World Cup semi-final. Parris was impassive when her spot kick down the middle was met with the hand of Germany goalkeeper Merle Frohms, diverting the ball onto her outstretched leg before it careered onto the roof of the net. White, in England’s best passage of play up to that point, had clawed the ball into Beth Mead’s vicinity and the Arsenal forward, trundling free, had been felled by Frohms. Of all the criticism that has been levelled at Neville of late, his side’s performance from the spot is the most justified.
“I had total confidence that [Parris] would score – she wanted to take the penalty,” Neville said. “I’m never going to criticise anyone that stands up there, but we need to start sticking them away. We had a list of three today: Nikita was the first one; Alex Greenwood, Beth Mead were in the order. We have to speak Nikita and see what she feels. I’m never one to take a penalty off someone if she feels she’s confident.”
By his own admission, they needed a performance here, and had to play better, probably, than they ever had under him; a penny for his thoughts, then, when Lena Oberdof picked out Alexandra Popp to fire at Earps from point-blank range and the Manchester United keeper plunged low to direct the shot onto the bar. The game was two minutes old.
For the ensuing 30 minutes, it was all Neville could do to watch his side dismantled piece-by-piece with grim, detached precision, the World Cup’s fourth-placed team reduced to hunting recently-disappeared shadows in the darkness of the Wembley night. No moment embodied this better than the opener and the whirr of chips and cutbacks that saw Kathrin Hendrich’s cross brought down by Dzenifer Marozsan and the Lyon playmaker send a perfect chip arcing into the feet of Popp.
It was a sign of how powerful they were on the counter that an England corner won by Parris ended with Leah Williamson hacking the ball clear at the other end, with Earps skidding into a save from Buhl. Oberdorf skipped between Houghton and Williamson for a free header and Jill Scott smacked away two Germany shots on the spin. They thought they had their second, after the break, when Earps spilt the ball into the path of Lina Magull, who prodded home from an offside position.
In their defence, England should have been playing against ten. The stretcher was summoned – albeit not needed – when Sara Doorsoun hurtled into a high tackle on Mead, as badly-timed a challenge as you will see, and if nothing else Mead will leave Wembley tonight grateful that her knee ligaments are intact. It is difficult to resist the feeling that Stéphanie Frappart, the first woman to referee a major men’s European match, got this one wrong, and had VAR been in use perhaps it would also have found that White was two yards offside for England’s equaliser.
Substitutes Georgia Stanway, Jodie Taylor and Lauren Hemp were valuable for England but Germany’s greater class told.
England (4-3-3): Earps; Bronze, Houghton, Williamson, Greenwood; Scott, Walsh, Nobbs (Stanway 77); Parris (Hemp 73), White (Taylor 73), Mead (Daly 73).
Subs not used: Telford (g), Bright, Stokes, McManus, Staniforth, England, Roebuck (g), Bonner.
Germany (4-3-3): Fromms; Kleinherne, Doorsoun, Oberdorf (Hegering, 45), Hendrich; Marozsan, Dabritz (Leupolz, 70), Magull (Lattwein, 84); Stark (Knaak 65), Popp (Bremer, 65), Buhl.
Subs not used: Maier, Schuller, Benkarth (g), Dallmann, Rauch, Schmitz (g), Knaak, Gasper, Lettwein.
Bookings: Frohms, Doorsoun, Kleinherne.
88 mins England 1-1 Germany
Great block by Houghton! The England captain shows great concentration and steely determination to get her body in the path of an effort from Buhl. The Manchester City defender comes to England again during the next attacking wave for the visitors. They're finishing strongly here.
75 mins England 1-1 Germany
England now looking to settle back into their rhythm and just as that start stringing a few passes today they're making another change with Stanway coming on for Nobbs. England showing an intent now with an attacking line-up but will they have time to get into the groove?
63 mins England 1-1 Germany - Goal ruled offside
Great passage of play now from Germany. They work the ball well into the penalty area, Popp has a shot from the edge of the area. Earps parries the ball, but only to Magull who is first to the follow up to push past the Manchester United keeper. It's rubbed off immediately by the assistant referee for offside.
54 mins England 1-1 Germany
Parris is back on the pitch after treatment and looks to have shaken off that knock. She's back into the thick of things, setting up England's next attack which sees Scott play in White. White goes down, just outside the penalty box. She holds her arms out, but nothing's given.
52 mins England 1-1 Germany
Parris lets out a roar of discomfort and falls to the turf, clutching her right ankle after a tap from Kleinherne. It wasn't a heavy challenge from the right-back, but it has Parris in agony, slamming the turf in pain and then anger as she sits up to have a moan at the ref. She hobbles off to the sidelines for further treatment.
46 mins England 1-1 Germany
Second half under way and Germany only side to make a change. Hegering comes on for Oberdorf.
Neville tells BBC before start of resumption: For 22 minutes I thought the occasion was too much. Then after 22 minutes we started to play like an England team.
“The goal was perfect. Germany showed in the first 20 minutes why they’re such a good team.”
43 mins - England 1-1 Germany - GOAL!! White equalises for England!
England back in it and no surprise that it's White on the scoresheet. Nice work from Scott who lays the ball off to Bronze, who squares it to Walsh. The Manchester City midfielder whips in a great ball and White is on it in a flash to push the ball past Frohms. A great finish again from the prolific scorer. Cue eye-cupping celebration.
36 mins - England 0-1 Germany - PARRIS PENALTY IS SAVED!
Parris goes straight down the middle and Frohms sticks out a leg and makes a strong connection. The ball flies up and lands on top of the net for another corner.
That's a third straight miss from the spot from Parris for England after two misses at the World Cup. Interesting to see if they get another spot-kick who will step up next.
30 mins - England 0-1 Germany
Mead is scythed down close to the halfway line by Doorsoun. The German right-back is shown a yellow but the replays show it's a shocking tackle. Her studs were high and she catches Mead knee-high. The Arsenal forward is treated on the pitch but is back up and running a minute or two later. Doorsoun is lucky to still be on the pitch.
29 mins - England 0-1 Germany
Signs now that England are slowly getting themselves into proceedings. Mead finally gets motoring down the left wing and puts Hendrich through her paces. She wins another corner, on the opposite side this time. Mead takes a short one and whips in the returned ball from Greenwood but it's too deep. Better from England.
23 mins - England 0-1 Germany
A roar goes round Wembley as Parris wins a free-kick. It's the first time the Lyon forward has had a touch of the ball. Within seconds Parris is doing what she does best, marauding down the right wing and pulls a ball back to the middle to earn England their first corner.
19 mins - England 0-1 Germany
Let-off for England as White finally clears England's line after a pin-ball exchange in the penalty area with Marozsan attempting to find space to drill a low shot through the crowd.
Germany quickly get the ball back into play to set up another attack. This time a long effort from Buhl which sails over the bar.
It's tipping it down at Wembley
Coverage has begun on BBC Two and Gabby Logan and pundits Kelly Smith and Rachel Finnis-Brown have been granted almighty umbrellas each to shield themselves from the downpour at Wembley.
Will this afternoon's weather put some fair-weather fans off from attending?
With 10 minutes to go there are plenty of empty seats, but most likely they're leaving it until the last possible moment to brave the cold.
Neville: We want the fans to come back
At his pre-match press conference yesterday, Phil Neville hinted that England are likely to play a few more matches at Wembley next year, ahead of the Euro 2021 which will be staged on these shores.
“I think the biggest thing from a circus-like point of view is that these 86,000 people come back, just like they did in the World Cup.
“They watched and thought, I want a bit of that. I want to go and see these players. I want to come back to Wembley.
“I want to do this yearly and yearly and yearly, and make it a regular occurrence. I know that’s what the FA are working towards. To do that, we have to put on a spectacle tomorrow. When players, people, fans are inspired, they’re inspired by what happens on the field. When you get to games like this, you have to forget the side show, the circus going around us.”
Meet the England superfans
Earlier this week, reporter Molly McElwee spoke to superfans Sophie Downey and Rachel O’Sullivan who reached their own milestone of watching England play 100 times home and away last month.
The married couple, who started their own football blog 'Girlsontheball' seven years ago, have travelled to 23 countries following England, spanning four major tournaments, 329 goals and three coaches.
Stage set for record attendance
Evening all on an historic day for Phil Neville's England as they take on Germany at Wembley.
A record crowd for a women's match in the UK should be confirmed later when Steph Houghton leads the Lionessess out at the national stadium.
More than 86,500 tickets have been sold for England’s international friendly against the two-time world champions, just 3,500 short of the stadium's capacity.
Roll back five years, and 45,619 fans watched England women play their first ever match at Wembley, incidentally against today's opponents when they lost 3-0. Previously, 80,203 watched the 2012 women's Olympic final at Wembley between USA and Japan.
England will be looking to beat Germany for the first time in their history, a rivalry which stretches back to 1984. In fact, in all 25 meetings between the two teams, England can lay claim to just a solitary win. That bronze-medal winning match at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
Neville's side go into today's clash in the midst of a sticky patch, winning just once in six matches since their World Cup semi-final showing in France this summer.
Sloppy defensive errors have largely been their downfall, while they have struggled for goals in the absence of England's World Cup hero, Ellen White.
White, who joined Manchester City from Birmingham over the summer, returns to the squad for the first time since the World Cup following knee surgery, and looks set to win her 89th England cap.
Toni Duggan was forced to withdraw from the squad earlier this week due to a lower back injury. White's City team-mates, Georgia Stanway and Gemma Bonner, were both called up after training with the squad at St George's Park this week.
After this evening's match, England will wrap up their season with a friendly against Czech Republic on Tuesday, November 12.
It will be quite the come down in location for England's players as the Stadion Strelecky ostrov in České Budějovice can hold just 6,681 fans.
Follow the latest as we build up to today's showpiece from Wembley, with team news expected at 4.30pm.