For many onlookers facing Die Mannschaft brought up painful memories, from the 1970 World Cup to the ghost goal in 2010 as well as the Italia 90 and Euro 96 semi-final shootout heartbreaks.
But England’s players showed few signs of anxiety, nerves or baggage in the build-up or at Wembley, heeding boss Southgate’s advice to write their own history as Sterling and Kane struck in a famous 2-0 round-of-16 win.
The din inside the national stadium belied the 40,000-or-so in attendance and was matched across Peterborough as the goals went in and the reward for just England’s second ever Euros knockout win is a quarter-final clash against Sweden or Ukraine in Rome this Saturday.
England will head to Italy on the crest of a wave after digging deep on a nervy evening in front of a partisan home crowd, with goalkeeper Jordan Pickford producing some important saves before Sterling broke the deadlock in the second half.
The 26-year-old turned in Luke Shaw’s driven cross home to send supporters wild, but he was soon panicking after his loose ball led Thomas Muller to race through.
But the Germany veteran – who scored twice against England in their 2010 World Cup exit – inexplicably dragged wide and minutes later Kane opened his account for the tournament by directing home fan favourite Jack Grealish’s cross.