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