Will Eng­land fight them on the pitches… or will it be sure de­feat?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

ENG­LAND against Ger­many; Dunkirk against Dres­den. How on earth is it that these two Euro­pean coun­tries are con­tin­u­ously pit­ted against one an­other?

Never mind foot­ball matches – the wars alone be­tween these na­tions guar­an­tee an­other event filled with pas­sion, pride and com­mit­ment.

It de­fies be­lief that they seem so of­ten to be hurled into the same com­pet­i­tive arena.

Ger­many must start favourites to win to­mor­row. True, they slipped up against Ser­bia, but they have had greater poise, self-be­lief and com­po­sure than Eng­land so far at this World Cup.

Yet does the tag “favourites” mean a fig at the tour­na­ment? Were the US ev­ery­one’s pick to top their group ahead of Eng­land?

“A stroll in the park” was how Eng­land’s group games were per­ceived be­fore a ball was kicked. What price New Zealand hold­ing the reign­ing world cham­pi­ons, Italy, to a draw or Switzer­land beat­ing Spain? None what­so­ever, of course. So what value is there in the ac­co­lade of favourites?

How­ever, hav­ing said all that, Eng­land sim­ply must raise their game to have a se­ri­ous prospect of beat­ing the Ger­mans.

For two group games, Eng­land looked about as cre­ative and in­spired as a con­sti­pated cow. No one could pass any­thing of any sub­stance.

That im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly against Slove­nia on Wed­nes­day, yet then an­other weak­ness loomed. Eng­land’s scor­ing ra­tio from chances cre­ated was abysmal in that match.

They could have had five or six, such were the chances carved out. In the end, they scored one and were left desperately hang­ing on, de­fend­ing for their lives as Slove­nia threw them­selves at the Eng­land goal. Two shots blocked by flail­ing bod­ies, an­other went wide. Was this an Eng­land per­for­mance of con­vic­tion and poise?

I still don’t be­lieve the mix is right in this Eng­land side.

If it is, how come they have man­aged to turn a player who looked pos­i­tively lethal all sea­son for Manch­ester United into a largely in­ef­fec­tive front run­ner?

Wayne Rooney hasn’t scored a goal yet, al­though he did have an ef­fort turned against a post by the Slove­nian goal­keeper.

Yet Rooney has looked a pale shadow of him­self in a Manch­ester United shirt. Is that be­cause Sir Alex Fer­gu­son un­der­stands how to get the best out of him? Or is it be­cause Rooney has bet­ter play­ers around him at Old Traf­ford?

Un­less Fabio Capello can find a way to re­vi­talise a Rooney who looks in­creas­ingly weary from a phys­i­cal point of view and frus­trated from a mental as­pect, I can’t see how Eng­land can go much fur­ther.

Un­less, that is, Fabio Capello gam­bles against the Ger­mans and throws the tall, lanky Peter Crouch into the at­tack. Maybe then the Ger­mans might strug­gle to win.

But that would mean re­turn­ing Jer­main De­foe, Eng­land’s scorer in midweek, to the bench and it’s hard to see that hap­pen­ing. But would a De­foe-Rooney axis up front frighten the Ger­mans? Un­likely.

No Capello team at this World Cup has looked re­motely con­vinc­ing as yet.

But un­less that changes to­mor­row af­ter­noon, it’s hard to see any other out­come than a Ger­man win and an­other grim re­treat for Eng­land from a failed World Cup bid.

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