Gareth Southgate’s side will renew their historic rivalry with Germany at Wembley on Tuesday. Since the 1966 World Cup final, England and Germany have produced some of international football’s most iconic moments.
England midfielder Henderson is well aware of the significance of next week’s eagerly-anticipated tie and has told his team-mates to do everything they can to be fully prepared.
“It’s a special game for the players, for the fans. It’s a big game and that’s what you want to be playing in at these tournaments,” Henderson told reporters on Thursday. “You enter the knockout stages, if you win you go on and if you lose you’re out. We just have to stay focused.
“It’s very exciting. Everybody will be looking forward to it. We need to stay focused and have no regrets. It would mean everything to use to get into the next round. Of course to beat Germany is special as well because they are a fantastic team and it is always a big game.”
While unbeaten England advanced as Group D winners, Germany’s place in the last 16 was only secured at the death as they a rescued a 2-2 draw with Hungary to finish second in Group F. At various points in the final Group F games on Wednesday, England were set to play France, Portugal and Hungary before finally learning they would face the Germans.
Germany may not be the force they have been so often in major tournaments in the past, but Liverpool captain Henderson has no intention of underestimating a country that has won four World Cups and three European Championships.
“It’s a huge game and one we’ll be looking forward to. We knew whoever we faced it would be a big challenge. We need to prepare well and give everything,” Henderson said. “They’re still a very good side.
“They have quality all over the pitch. It will be a very tough test. It’s not necessarily about form in games like this, it’s who performs on the night. We have a few days to prepare properly and see what we can exploit, what the game plan will be and take that into our training sessions. Preparation is key for this fixture.”
England have a painful past against Germany, having lost to them on penalties in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and on home turf at Wembley in Euro 96, as well as in the 1970 and 2010 World Cups.
Asked if England’s squad would increase their focus on penalty-taking in the build-up to Tuesday’s game, Henderson said: “We always practise penalties. Nothing’s changed there. I’m sure we will practise them but that’s always the case in any tournament.”
Southgate famously missed a crucial penalty in the 1996 shoot-out but Henderson said the players wouldn’t bring it up with their manager.
“We haven’t spoken about it and I’m not sure we will to be honest!” he said. “A lot of (media) talk will be about penalties, but we were in a shoot-out not that long ago. It’s part and parcel of tournaments these days.”