The old rivals face off in the last 16.....
Kick-Off: Sunday, June 27, 16:00 CET.
Free State Stadium, Mangaung/Bloemfontein.
Free State Stadium, Mangaung/Bloemfontein.
Back With Confidence
Germany started their World Cup campaign on the most comprehensive note conceivable as they defeated Australia 4-0 in Group D. It remains one of the most vivid displays of the World Cup in South Africa and indeed was a statement of the Germans' intentions on the world's biggest footballing stage.
However, Joachim Loew's side stuttered in their next game as they lost 1-0 to Serbia with striker Miroslav Klose getting sent off. But Die Mannschaft recovered their composure and defeated Ghana 1-0 in their final group fixture to win Group D and qualify for the last 16 without much of a problem.
Going into the titanic clash with England on Sunday afternoon, the 2006 World Cup semi-finalists will have every reason to believe that they can win the match and thread their way into the quarter-finals. The Germans looked very slick and creative upfront and with the return of key striker Klose for this match and Mesut Oezil displaying superb creativity and craft, indeed the 2002 World Cup finalists will believe that they can overrun the English.
Moreover, Germany should take heart from the fact that the last time the two sides met in the World Cup finals, they won on penalties in Italia '90 in the semis. Six years later in the last four of Euro '96, Germany once again knocked out the Three Lions in the penalty shootout. The joke is that if the last 16 clash goes to penalties, then England may as well not take their spotkicks as the Germans are bound to win.
The shocking 0-0 draw with Algeria in their second game in Group C threatened to put the England camp into disarray but the Three Lions showed marvellous resilience and spirit to regroup themselves. Coach Fabio Capello imposed himself on the squad more strongly and although the 1-0 win against Slovenia in their final group match wasn't exactly a virtuoso performance by any stretch of the imagination, it was quite encouraging and it helped the 1966 world champions qualify for the last 16 as Group C runners-up.
Qualification for the second round must surely have given England a cause to believe. For a nation that feeds on its footballing history and tradition, it is almost imperative that Capello's men defeat the Germans on Sunday afternoon. England's performance on the pitch hasn't been enough to qualify them as one of the top contenders for the World Cup but in Capello they have a wily old coach who knows how to win and how to get the best out of his players.
A tie with Germany in the last 16 isn't perhaps what most England supporters would have wanted especially as the Germans have looked very impressive in their group stage. However, England should realise that defeating Germany will only reinforce their self-conviction and convince them to believe in themselves more.
Yet with the knockout stage already on their doorsteps, what England seem to be dreading - or at least are said to be dreading - is another penalty shootout. The Three Lions have been knocked out of the last two major internationals on penalties and there's a feeling that with the Germans having a reputation of never losing on penalties, they will have to win in normal time.
June 23: Ghana 0-1 Germany (World Cup)
June 18: Germany 0-1 Serbia (World Cup)
June 13: Germany 4-0 Australia (World Cup)
June 3 Germany 3-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina (Friendly)
May 29 Hungary 0-3 Germany (Friendly)
June 23: Slovenia 0-1 England (World Cup)
June 18: England 0-0 Algeria (World Cup)
June 12: England 1-1 USA (World Cup)
May 30: Japan 1-2 England (Friendly)
May 24: England 3-1 Mexico (Friendly)
Coach Joachim Loew has no suspension worries ahead of Sunday's massive clash. Striker Miroslav Klose was suspended against Ghana in their last group game but is available for selection against England. However, Bastian Schweinsteiger is struggling with a thigh muscle problem and there is considerable doubt on whether or not he can start in the midfield.
If the Bayern Munich star doesn't, then Toni Kroos will be his replacement. Left-back Jerome Boateng too is struggling for fitness and is likely to be replaced by Holger Badstuber. Playmaker Mesut Oezil is expected to start although he was hit with a family tragedy on Friday as his grandmother passed away.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Lahm; Khedira, Kroos; Mueller, Oezil, Podolski; Klose
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is available for selection after sitting out the group stage match against Slovenia because of suspension. He will slot into centre-back replacing Matthew Upson. Ledley King has resumed full training but will undergo a late fitness test to see if he can start ahead of Carragher. Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe will start upfront and James Milner will be deployed in midfield. Joe Cole has recovered his fitness but is likely to start on the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): James' Johnson, Terry, Carragher, A. Cole; Milner, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard; Rooney, Defoe
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Miroslav Klose (Germany)
The Bayern Munich hitman is not one of the most lethal strikers at club level and not many big clubs in Europe will break the bank to sign him. However, Klose's performance and goals in the World Cup finals show that he is a striker who can turn on the style on the world's biggest footballing stage and can find goals with his feet or with his head.
Klose was suspended against Ghana in their last group game and the Germans did miss him. England don't look particularly strong at the back and with John Terry prone to making mistakes, Klose could take advantage and put his aerial expertise into execution. With Mesut Oezil set to supply him the killer passes from the midfield, the 32-year-old will be a very tricky prospect for the England backfour.
Wayne Rooney (England)
Ever since the Manchester United striker made his debut for England in 2003, he has been ear-marked as the player who would lead the Three Lions to World Cup glory. Rooney, who had a great season with the Red Devils even though it was punctuated by injuries, was expected to burst into full swing in South Africa right from the start by the England supporters but so far the former Everton striker has been marginally better than a flop.
Rooney was pretty much anonymous in England's opening two games of the World Cup and came into some prominence only against Slovenia in their final group game. Against a German side that do tend to tremble from time to time at the back, a bullish Rooney with his strength, pace and fear-factor could be decisive.
Germany-England clashes are always classics and this game promises to be one. Both sides have reasons to be optimistic: Germany have looked slick and creative upfront while England have rediscovered the spirit and urge to win.
The Castrol World Cup match predictor gives Germany a 46% chance of winning the match while England are given a 54% chance. Indeed, it's a very close call to make but Germany should just about sneak a win. However, the 2006 World Cup semi-finalists must take care to see that they don't concede first.
Germany 2-1 England (a.e.t.)
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Who will come out on top? Check out Castrol Football's 2010 World Cup Match Predictor.