BLOEMFONTEIN - Germany have got physical
problems while England's are mainly in their heads as the two
old foes prepare to land the first heavyweight knockout blow in
the World Cup on Sunday.
If past events are anything to go by, their fifth meeting in
the World Cup finals and their first since the then-West Germany
beat England on penalties in the 1990 semi-finals, is unlikely
to end in a straightforward victory for either side.
Something unusual, memorable, dramatic or controversial is
almost bound to occur when they come face to face for their
second-round tie at the Free State Stadium, because
when England play Germany, something always does.
The past may not be in the least bit relevant when the match
kicks off but certain echoes from their previous tumultuous
encounters will resonate down through the years.
Physically, the past has left no scars on the present, but
mentally, England's players must overcome the inferiority
complex they seem to have when they play the Germans, or any
other major power, when it matters most.
Since beating West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final the
only teams England have beaten in a World Cup knockout match
over the last 44 years have been Paraguay, Belgium, Cameroon,
Ecuador and Denmark, and they have never reached another World
Cup or European championship final either.
By contrast, Germany have appeared in 11 major finals,
winning the World Cup twice (1974, 1990), been runners-up three
times (1982, 1986, 2002) and won three European titles and been
beaten in three finals.
They have no fears about meeting other big teams while the
Three Lions on England's badge seemed to turn into little timid
pussycats when faced with serious opposition.
England go into the match with no fresh injuries other than
the long-term one that has sidelined centre-back Ledley King but
Germany do have a serious concern over Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The midfielder, described as "the heart" of the team by
coach Joachim Loew, "would only play if he is 100 percent fit,"
The 25-year-old picked up a thigh muscle injury in their
final Group D match against Ghana while defender Jerome Boateng
was also doubtful following his calf muscle injury in the same
Loew said 20-year-old midfielder Toni Kroos, who came on as
a substitute for Schweinsteiger late in the Ghana match, could
replace him from the start.
Left back Holger Badstuber, who had started in Germany's two
other group encounters against Australia and Serbia, is expected
to replace Boateng.
England coach Fabio Capello might have no fresh injury
concerns but will be looking for a huge improvement over their
three group stage matches if they are to have any hope of
advancing to the last eight.
His main job before the match starts is to convince his
players that previous failures count for little and that their
whole mental approach must focus on the positive if they are to
win. At least his men have been practising penalties.
England's defeats by the Germans in the 1990 World Cup
semi-finals in Italy, and the 1996 European championship at
Wembley Stadium, still feel like fresh wounds to England's
Their fears of another failure will surely be realised
unless England forget the past and play like Lions instead of
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