Only the third knockout game of the tournament and two of football’s power houses are meeting in the second round of the 2010 World Cup. For the winners, they go on to meet either Argentina or Mexico on July 3rd. The losers will see the fans of either England or Germany left disappointed.
Despite not producing a single convincing performance to date in the World Cup, England come into this match as narrow favourites. There is much belief in this country that after showing some promise against Slovenia that England should be able to beat Germany.
Germany, far from their strongest looking side in recent tournaments haven’t matched their opening game performance when they beat Australia 4-0. Since then they suffered an unfortunate 1-0 defeat at the hands of Serbia that saw Miroslav Klose harshly sent off in the first half and Lukas Podolski have a penalty saved. Then we saw an efficient display from Germany in a 1-0 win over Ghana that saw them top Group D and setup this second round clash.
Both nations will be looking for their key players to perform and here’s how I see the two nations matching up:
Wayne Rooney v Arne Friedrich
Coming off of his best Premier League season, Wayne Rooney has failed to score in 3 games at this World Cup, extending his run to 7 World Cup games without a single goal. He has been far from his best since picking up an injury in the Champions League against German side Bayern Munich. After bad touches in his opening two games, Rooney showed promise in his final group game and was denied his first goal by Samir Handanovic’s smart save. Arne Friedrich is quietly having a solid tournament at the back as the German’s have conceded just one goal so far. He and Per Mertesacker give Manuel Neuer strong protection in front of his goal and are likely to limit Rooney’s opportunities in this game which may see him frustrated and resorting to long range efforts.
Steven Gerrard v Bastian Schweinsteiger
There are doubts concerning Bastian Schweinsteiger’s fitness going into this game, but I am confident the Bayern Munich midfielder will play in this game. Despite being a talented winger, Joachim Low has played Schweinsteiger in a holding midfield role in the absence of Michael Ballack. Schweinsteiger has held his own admirably, with strong challenges breaking up a number of opposition attacks so far. It’s limited his attacking opportunities, for which he is a great crosser of the ball. Only look out for Bastian Schweinsteiger to attack if Germany fall behind. Otherwise he will stick to his task of limiting Steven Gerrard’s possession and creativity. Steven Gerrard made a good start to his World Cup, scoring inside 4 minutes against the USA. Then he was out of position in a horrible performance against Algeria. Expecting him to play behind Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe, he will likely be man marked by Schweinsteiger. If so, I don’t see Steven Gerrard being a great influence in this match, subject to the fitness of the German number 7.
Frank Lampard v Sami Khedira
Frank Lampard has had another quiet World Cup so far but has this big match on Sunday to win over the England fans. While the attacking midfielder has scored for fun at club level with Chelsea in the Premier League, his performances have been questioned by some section of the English support. Lampard’s record for England still reads 20 goals in 81 appearances. He’s not going to fancy Sami Khedira’s tough tackling in their midfield battle, but Lampard could find space in midfield when the VfB Stuttgart player pushes forward. Generally a defensive minded player, he has got in and around the opposition box during this tournament so far. Ideally Lampard needs to win this battle for England. For him to do so, we need to see a determined effort for him that has been lacking to date.
Gareth Barry v Mesut Ozil
Another matchup that favours Germany comes in attack. Mesut Ozil has been one of the best performers in the tournament to date. Gareth Barry was sloppy against Slovenia and cannot afford another performance like that when he comes up against Ozil. Fortunately from an England perspective, Barry is usually a solid player, so don’t be surprised to see him bounce back. Even still, Ozil’s runs off the ball have seen him find a lot of space in this tournament, while when he’s on the ball he’s played a lot of his teammates in. He added a spectacular strike against Ghana to complete his group stage performance. It’s a big ask from Barry to keep Ozil quiet all game. Expect the German to play a big role at some point.
John Terry v Miroslav Klose
Coming back from suspension, Miroslav Klose has had just over 100 minutes of action in this World Cup so far. He scored in Germany’s first game as Klose continues to show his goalscoring pedigree at international level. 5 in each of the last two World Cup finals, he will be Germany’s target man. John Terry may be remembered in his World Cup for throwing his head in the way of a shot against Slovenia, but he has been beat in the air too. Klose, having scored 7 of his 11 World Cup goals with his head will fancy his chances against the former England skipper on Sunday. Should Terry lose this battle and England go out, expect the critics to get on Terry’s back once again this year.
Ashley Cole v Thomas Muller
Another one of Germany’s successful youngsters in this tournament, Thomas Muller has been very creative hanging out on the right hand side of midfield. Off the back of a very successful first senior season with Bayern Munich that saw him part of the domestic double winning side and Champions League runners up, Muller is comfortable on the ball, taking players on and setting up chances. He scored a fine goal against Australia after setting up Lukas Podolski for the first. He also assisted Mesut Ozil’s goal in their victory over Ghana. With Gareth Barry busy with Ozil in this game, Ashley Cole cannot afford to be caught out of position in attack because Muller will be a threat on the counter with Cole out of position. He will also be hoping for James Milner to in front of him to track back and offer help in defending against Muller. Steven Gerrard would be a nightmare choice for the left wing again, but surely Fabio Capello won’t make that mistake again. Muller also has support in Philipp Lahm from right back.
Glen Johnson v Lukas Podolski
The same problem England have down their left, they have down their right. Glen Johnson is a very attack-minded full back who has been caught out of position a number of times for England. Lukas Podolski is a great counter attack option for Joachim Low’s side in this match. I expect him to have lots of space down Germany’s left wing in this match. Since scoring in the eighth minute of their opening match, Podolski has had a poor tournament. He’s made some poor decisions in good positions with the ball. His finishing was particularly woeful against Serbia, including becoming the first player to miss a penalty for Germany in normal time since Uli Hoeness in 1974. A club that consists of two players, the same number of players to miss in a penalty shootout for Germany. Hoeness being half the members of that club too. Will Podolski have the chance to join him?
David James v Manuel Neuer
Both England and Germany were unsure of their number 1 selections heading into the World Cup. David James was sitting on the bench when Robert Green made a howler against the USA. Since then he has deputised and to date, at 39, he has never conceded a goal in the World Cup. He also comes into this game very confident, saying at a press release he is confident England can beat Germany in either normal time or if not, penalties. He done what he had to against Slovenia, but hasn’t been tested in either game. Expect the German’s to put a lot more balls into the box and that is where David James is at his most vulnerable. With a ball that has deceived goalkeepers, a drop of a cross is on the cards. Manuel Neuer, still relatively inexperienced at international level, only 23 has been solid for his club side Schalke 04, domestically and in the Champions League. Has been linked with Manchester United previously and is set for a big future. There was little he could do about the only goal he has conceded during this competition, but I still think he makes his defenders nervous at times. Could he be the goalkeeper making a costly mistake in this game?
Having tested this ball myself, I can tell you it really does swerve and bounce unpredictably. Goalkeepers have backed that statement up with some performances in this tournament. Slow motion replays have shown the ball swerve on a number of occasions already during this tournament. The more the players use it, the more they have got use to it. Germany have had that advantage since December last year when the ball debuted in the Bundesliga. The whole German squad in this World Cup play in Germany and therefore have an additional six months experience under their belts. That is a narrow advantage to Germany. Hopefully not one that decides the match. The notably poor deliveries from set pieces by England need to improve. The Germans have shown how to use it.
One big difference between these two nations is that Germany have that winning mentality. When you write them off, they win. When their squad is considered the weakest for a few decades, they get to a World Cup final. England on the other hand don’t do victories over major footballing nations. Not since 1966 have England defeated a major footballing nation in the knockout stages of a World Cup. Keep that in mind tomorrow. Some of this Germany team are from the Under 21 side that defeated England 4-0 last year. A game that many English fans and pundits alike thought England would win. We’re heading into this game under similar circumstances. Joachim Low and his German players know how to win. England have struggled to this point – what makes you think tomorrow will be any different?
I won’t deny, I have money on Germany to qualify from this match at evens. A lot of it too. The odds are too good to turn down. Odds of Germany winning to zero has also been too tempting for me to turn down. Germany have kept two clean sheets in three games, while England have scored just two in their three games; one of which the goalkeeper should have saved. I am expecting a comfortable win for Germany on Sunday, but if this turns out to be a tight battle that both countries are capable of playing out, then Germany are 50/50 to knick the winning goal. Germany are also 19/10 to win in 90 minutes and 10/1 on penalties