Twenty-five years on, Gareth Southgate has finally got the chance to lay to rest the demons which have haunted his career.
That moment back in Euro 96, Southgate’s long, haunting walk back to the centre circle after missing in the shoot-out against Germany in the semi final when England’s hope turned to despair.
But, during his five years in charge, Southgate has made a habit of helping move on from the past and must surely feel a sense of destiny surrounding Wembley on Tuesday night.
England ended their penalty shootout hoodoo against Colombia in the 2018 World Cup, they have reconnected with the fans and there is a sense of optimism around the national team again.
That will, of course, soon disappear if England suffer defeat against their bitter rivals and they will be loath to allow it to go all the way to a shootout because of the history and disappointment of the past – even if that came before some of the current players were born.
Incredibly, England have not won a knockout tie in the Euros since 1996 when they beat Spain on penalties and that is the sort of barrier which Southgate has broken during his time in charge.
Southgate said: “These sorts of landmarks are always opportunities. They have got an opportunity to go beyond where some incredible players and fantastic servants of England have gone before. And that is always an opportunity to be grasped.
“I was not really that aware of our record in the Euros. I knew our European Championship record did not stack up against the Czech Republic and Denmark and teams like that, but I had not realised that Spain was the only knockout win.
“But I can’t win this game. It will be the players who win it. It’s important the focus is on them. The opportunity is theirs.
“What happened to me has helped in many different areas of my life but it’s of no importance to this group of players and really every time you play an opponent it’s about two sets of players on any given day. It’s about how well they prepared and how well they perform.
“There are always records in the Premier League about teams who haven’t won at certain grounds for 30 years but at some point that record gets broken. All those barriers are there to be knocked down in life and that’s the mentality we have got to have.”
Southgate has brought a fresh optimism to the England team, now he must find the right balance and formula to beat a Germany team which looks to be in transition.
The ageing stars of Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos still have their moments as they showed in destroying Portugal in the group stage but this must be seen as an opportunity for England.
Southgate must be bold to seize it, that is why England must find a more attacking formation to give the width to provide service for the forwards while shutting down the threat from the German wing backs Joshua Kimmich and Robin Gosens.
A back three may seem a defensive mood on Southgate’s part but the challenge is actually to get more width, more threat from the wide areas and service to Harry Kane.
Mason Mount is fit to start but Southgate is more likely to use him from the bench as substitutes will be crucial if it is, as expected, a tight and tense affair. The big call will be Phil Foden or Bukayo Saka but the importance of set pieces may swing towards the Manchester City man.
But Southgate wants his players to be bold and adventurous rather than cautious. He added: “We have stressed to the players that mistakes happen in game of football. If you are playing forward, and looking forward, you are risking possession of the ball at times.
“There is always a balance of finding the right moment, and keeping the ball and make the opposition run. The objective is not to come off the pitch with 95 percent pass completion – the objective is to win the game and score goals.”
England probable: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Rice, Phillips, Shaw; Sterling, Foden, Kane.