Bukayo Saka came off the bench in England’s 3-3 Nations League draw with Germany and changed the complexion of the contest.
The Arsenal forward was introduced just a minute before England conceded their second goal to a Kai Havertz stunner, but from there he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and got The Three Lions back into the contest.
He was electric playing in a more familiar attacking role on the right, instead of being shoehorned at left wing-back by Southgate, causing plenty of problems for the Germany defence with his fleet-footed jinks and penetrating runs.
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England had largely laboured until Southgate made that double substitution to bring on Saka and Mason Mount. There were a few openings in the first half, but nothing sustained until Germany broke the deadlock through an Ilkay Gundogan penalty shortly after the restart.
The game turned on its head when Saka made his way onto the turf. For England’s first, he combined well with Reece James before the Chelsea defender curled a menacing ball into Luke Shaw’s path, who reduced the deficit. He then went on a mazy run to tee up Mount for England’s equaliser.
Saka also set up Harry Kane for a gilt-edged chance that just whistled past the post, before the Tottenham strike put England in front from the spot. Havertz would then restore parity for the travelling side after a Nick Pope clanger, but it was an improved England performance on the whole.
The Three Lions had not yet scored from open play in the 2022/23 Nations League heading into this final game, but the recently-relegated side looked confident in the final third and threatening when Saka and Mount entered the fray — and there will certainly be clamour for the London-based duo to start at the World Cup.
In the aftermath, Saka wrote on his Instagram that he felt England showcased immense personality to turn the game around, capturing: “Showed great character tonight and we deserved more in the end! Thank you Wembley for your support.”
The replies were awash with eulogies from his team-mates, with Bellingham even cheekily responding “Leo” to his original post, in reference to Lionel Messi.
The 21-year-old was a frightening prospect in full motion, turning the German defence inside out and snapping metaphorical ankles with his neat and nimble footwork. That he was able to combine style with substance, claiming an assist on the night, will only enhance the wonder of his burgeoning talents. And on reflection of his Wembley showing, should be a shoo-in to start in Qatar.