Sunday, June 27, 2010

Preview of Round of 16. Match 3: England v Germany

It's the big one! It's one time World Cup winner England versus three time champs Germany. It's one of world football's biggest rivalries and even though they are a very long time ago, for some people the rivalry takes on even bigger significance because of the world wars. This is reflected in the song that some people like to sing: "two world wars and one world cup".

England versus Germany is always one of the most anticipated clashes any time, let alone in the knock-out stage at a World Cup. They have a celebrated history of contests that stem in particular from the 1966 World Cup final.

Historic World Cup matches between the sides:

1966 World Cup final. England 4-2 Germany after extra-time. England were leading 2-1 and conceded an equaliser in the last minute of regulation time - Weber poked it over the line despite English protestations of a handball. In extra-time England scored one of the most controversial goals of all time and arguments rage to this day about it. Hurst hit the crossbar and the ball bounced down either onto or just over the goal-line. But the goal was given. Hurst went on to score another goal for England's fourth and his hat-trick and even that is contested. Fans had already started running onto the pitch so perhaps technically it should not have been given. England won their one and only world cup and this really kick-started a massive football rivalry.

1970 World Cup quarter-final. England were leading 2-0, then Germany pulled one back through Beckenbauer and manager Alf Ramsey did the unthinkable. He substituted the tiring Bobby Charlton and it was probably one of the worst decisions he ever made. England lost any potency going forward and Seeler equalised for the Germans. Gerd Muller scored the winner in extra-time (it was one of his 14 world cup finals goals for which he held the record until Ronaldo overtook him with 15 in 2006) to send the German fans into delirium. Many commentators think England would have won if their brilliant goalkeeper Gordon Banks hadn't been missing through illness.

1990 World Cup semi-final. This is one of my worst memories as an England fan. Lineker equalised in the 80th minute to make the match 1-1 and send it to extra-time. No-one broke through in extra-time and England had their first taste of spot-kick misery. Something they would experience a lot more of through the years. Pearce and Waddle missed their penalties. The game was also iconic for Gazza's tears - he had received a yellow card which would cause him to be suspended for the final should England make it through.

A couple more iconic matches (non World Cup) have also been the 1996 European Championships semi-final which England also lost on penalties - Southgate the villain this time - and a World Cup qualifying match in 2001 when England famously won a surprising 5-1!

Both teams are coming into this match off a mixed bag in the group stage. England were average against the USA, abysmal against Algeria, and finally got themselves together against Slovenia. Germany were mesmerising against Australia before succumbing to Serbia and then beating Ghana.

Key players


Rooney - yet to set the World Cup alight he is considered part of the trio of world's best footballers: Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney. When he fires he is almost unstoppable.

Gerrard and Lampard (and particularly Gerrard) - two supremely talented players who step up for their clubs when it matter but don't do it often enough for England.

John Terry - Prone to the odd mistake Terry will have to put a few things behind him, (affair, captaincy stripping, harsh words on Capello) stay focused and be a true leader on the pitch.


Oezil and Mueller - Two young players that can wrip apart any defence when they are at the top of their game. Oezil is coming off a game in which he scored an absolute belter and Mueller has the potential to become the best player in the world, and is not far behind right now. Both could create a lot of opportunities for the devastating front men Podolski and Klose.

Lahm - Captain and a fantastic full-back he must be alert to the dangers coming from England's midfield and attack.

Schweinsteiger - A key man in central midfield, Schweinsteiger is battling an injury and hoping to be fit.

Expectations - could be a cagey tight affair with neither side wanting to give an inch. But it will have the potential to explode at any time with the attacking talent on show tonight. Both sides have shown the odd weakness in defence so there could be some goals in the game. Germany have more talent throughout their squad and they are younger which could make them more exciting and play with less fear. Although it could also lead to more mistakes or naive play without all the wise old heads around.

And if it comes to penalties, you have to back the Germans.
An absolute classic encounter is in the offing, and it's a shame one of these teams won't be strutting their stuff in the quarter-finals.

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