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Goal.com examines the key match-ups in Sunday's big game between Die Mannschaft and the Three Lions.

Germany against England is always one of the most hotly anticipated clashes on the international calendar, but during a World Cup knockout stage the encounter takes on a whole new level of importance.

Neither side have particularly impressed in the tournament to date. Germany have certainly looked the stronger of the two nations, though they still required a nervy 1-0 victory over Ghana to push through to the knockout stages. The Three Lions, on the other hand, will be ready to go through the gears against a team they see as their fiercest international rivals.

Goal.com, using our network of worldwide experts, has pulled in Germany expert Clark Whitney from Goal.com International and England expert Amar Singh from Goal.com UK to discuss the key clashes.

Arne Friedrich (Castrol Ranking: 917) v Wayne Rooney (Castrol Ranking: 4)

Aside from one aberration against Serbia, the German defense has been characteristically strong to this point in the tournament, though England’s offensive power is certainly greater than anything Die Mannschaft have had to cope with thus far.

 

A stereotypically German defender, Friedrich has had a sound tournament to date, helping Joachim Loew’s side to two vital clean sheets.

Clark: “Friedrich is a pretty consistent player. He isn't the type to do the amazing, but doesn't make a ton of mistakes either. He's like the antithesis of John Terry.”


The expectation levels stacked upon the shoulders of Rooney prior to the tournament were colossal, yet the Manchester United striker has failed to live up to his billing as yet.

Amar: “Rooney was almost back to top form against Slovenia, getting on the ball more and being at the heart of all of England's good moves. A fantastic save from the Slovenian keeper denied Rooney his first goal of the tournament. I fully expect him to improve further against Germany, should he shrug off his ankle knock. Rooney has more than enough strength and pace to trouble both Friedrich and Per Mertesacker.”


VERDICT

The explosiveness of Rooney will be too much for the German rearguard if the forward is on top form, but if he again allows his level to dip, Die Mannschaft have the talent to snuff him out.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Castrol Ranking: 143) - Frank Lampard (Castrol Ranking: 10)

It is often said that the middle of the pitch is where games are won and lost. Lampard has been an expert match-winner for club side Chelsea in the past, but Schweinsteiger’s form in recent times has been formidable.

 

As one might expect of a holding midfielder, Schweinsteiger hasn’t been one to hit the headlines in the early stages of the World Cup, but he’s more than holding his own in the German midfield in the absence of Michael Ballack.

Clark: “Schweinsteiger is now the man running the engine for Germany. He's more likely to dribble than Ballack, distributes well, tackles hard, and rarely gives the ball away. His only weaknesses are his pace and the rare possibility of a better passer. Lampard has neither advantage, although Schweini's fitness could be an issue.”


Lampard is another one of England’s star men who haven’t really performed to the best of their ability in South Africa as yet.

Amar: “Frank Lampard also improved immensely against Slovenia and with Steven Gerrard playing from the left more, he had more space to run into and this suited his natural game more. Lampard also put in a fairly disciplined performance in the second half, sitting back and playing his part in breaking up Slovenia's attacks.”


VERDICT

This promises to be one of the great match-ups on display. Schweinsteiger has been in sensational form of late, and his all-round ability may see him just edge Lampard in this clash.

Mesut Oezil (Castrol Ranking: 64) – Gareth Barry (Castrol Ranking: 407)

Another crucial battle in the middle of the field will rage between the creative hub of the German side, Oezil, and England’s designated midfielder destroyer Gareth Barry.

 

Already Werder Bremen midfielder Oezil has attracted a great deal of praise for his performances in South Africa, and the 21-year-old seems poised to be elevated to the status of world star given his recent showings.

Clark: “Oezil plays incredible through balls. If the English drop deep, though, his effectiveness will be limited. I should also add that Oezil's movement is really impressive. His ability to play left, right, and center, makes him very difficult to mark out of the game. If Barry is doing well against him, Oezil will just move to another locale.”


Barry was a somewhat controversial inclusion in Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad, given the Italian had warned he wouldn’t take a risk on injured players. As yet, the Italian has not seen the best of the Aston Villa man.

Amar: “Gareth Barry is not 100 per cent fit and this showed in the last two games. He was a little sloppy at times against Slovenia and was caught in possession twice in the second half. However he sets the tempo of England's play, is disciplined and brings balance to the side. I would say this is an area of concern for England.”


VERDICT

Unless there is a great swing, Oezil will win this battle as his intelligence, fitness and form are all better than Barry’s.

Miroslav Klose (Castrol Ranking: 1230) – John Terry (Castrol Ranking: 34)

Germany have been a side somewhat lacking in goals at this tournament, bar the thumping of Australia, whereas England haven’t had too many problems keeping the opposition out, Robert Green aside.

 

Klose, who has always been such a consistent performer for Die Mannschaft, will be tasked with breaching the Three Lions’ rearguard, though he is still reeling from the red card he received against Serbia.

Clark: “Klose is a bit of a wild card. I expect him to play the same role he played against Serbia, harassing the defensive midfielders, and playing much like a not-so-physically-able Emile Heskey, affording space to Oezil, and possibly Thomas Mueller and Lucas Podolski. I don't expect him to score... that is unless Terry makes a stupid error, which perhaps isn't so unlikely after all.”

Former captain Terry has had a somewhat controversial World Cup thus far, with a background clash with Fabio Capello clouding his campaign.

Amar: “His 'attempted mutiny' aside, John Terry has been a steady rock for England at this World Cup. His display against Slovenia was particularly impressive and was throwing himself around the box to block Slovenian attempts. Terry has the experience and nous to keep Klose in his pocket.”
VERDICT
This is one area of the field that England should come out on top, though Amar also pointed out that Klose has a knack of scoring on the big occasion, so don’t underestimate him.

Philipp Lahm (Castrol Ranking: 117) – Steven Gerrard (Castrol Ranking: 140)

Arguably the most mouth-watering area of the park will be England’s left and Germany’s right, where the two captains will go directly head-to-head.

 

Lahm has oft been an inspirational figure for Die Mannschaft in the past, breaking forward to supplement the attack but covering back equally ably to take his place in defence.

Clark: “All German attacks will begin through him and Schweinsteiger. He can pass very well, and his defense is fantastic. Put him in a big-game situation and his skills are 25% sharper. Gerrard, out of form and out of position, is going to be neutralized.”

The left flank may not be a natural position for Gerrard, who has been accused of failing to replicate club form in the national jersey, but the midfielder has shown genuine signs of life in his new position against Slovenia, and he scored the opening goal of England’s World Cup campaign against the USA.

Amar: “Steven Gerrard put in a superb performance for England against Slovenia and seems to be enjoying having the armband. He will start on the left but expect him to drift around and get involved in the play. He linked up well with Ashley Cole, who got forward often, and Lahm could find himself facing two attacking threats at times.”

VERDICT
Lahm is an experienced and competent enough defender to cope with the out-of-position Gerrard, who will have a difficult time making an impression.

FINAL SCORE:

It’s difficult to argue with the virtually universal predictions of a tight match, but Germany’s additional creativity will ultimately carry them through, possibly after extra-time.

Germany 2-1 England (aet)

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