When Joachim Low had gathered his breath after brushing off a gigantic scare against Hungary, which was saved from becoming full-blown embarrassment for Germany late on, he was asked to forecast the last-16 fixture against England.
“It will be a different game,” came his dry yet accurate conclusion – except not in the way he intended. The manager was taking a swipe at Hungary’s obstructive approach and explained Gareth Southgate could not be so anti-football on their own Wembley turf.
But what of Germany? Which version of them will turn up to the showdown? It will be a different game because that has been their speciality: anaemic possession against France, the high-energy blitz of Portugal, the labour and near disaster against Hungary that had them six minutes from finishing bottom of Group F and waving bye-bye to the Euros.
This is not a tournament-specific quirk. For a while, it has been impossible to predict what is in the offing from Low’s men: a 7-1 scorching of Brazil at the 2014 World Cup was preceded and followed by exacting 1-0 victories.
Four years later, the Turniermannschaft – tournament team – the side mythologised to always step up at major competitions slumped out at the group stage of a global showpiece for the first time since 1938.
In recent months we have seen Germany be tanked by North Macedonia and utterly trounced 6-0 by Spain and yet there is still the sense that they could go on and win the whole thing.
Robin Gosens has been one of the standout players at the Euros, while through all the flux, Joshua Kimmich remains consistently excellent.
Kai Havertz is giving off the air of a Champions League winner and provides more glimpses of why his talent has received such big billing around the continent.
Germany can be wildly fun, as seen against Portugal, or plainly quite boring to watch when they have the ball for the sake of as was the case against France.
There is the on-pitch tendency – notice the body language in stretches against Hungary – to question who they are, what they are, if they truly retain Turniermannschaft status or if it’s all going to go very 2018 kaboom!
Kimmich admitted the draw with Hungary “stopped our good atmosphere a bit – we wanted to keep our momentum high. We knew it was going to be a difficult match, but we could have been more dominant.
“So far, I’d say our form has been up and down and that’s been the case lately. But I’m convinced we can improve and play better, in the next match and even beyond.”
What structure that will take is anyone’s else. Germany will certainly find it less complex to prepare for England given Southgate’s selections, approach and general safety-first slant is predictable.
Bukayo Saka and Jack Grealish gave them greater verve, aggression and intent against Czech Republic, where the full-backs were also more adventurous but that has been the exception.
England’s 22 attempts on goal is the second-lowest number at Euro 2020 as they adopt a more pragmatic navigation of the tournament.
How they handle a Germany that seem to surprise themselves at how contrasting they can be on each matchday will hopefully be a fascinating watch.