Headline acts must now raise their game
I WOULD love nothing more than to be eating humble pie for Sunday dinner.
But I can’t help fearing I will be pouring my gravy over the usual roast beef and trimmings while washing down a disappointing World Cup exit.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m as patriotic as the next man. My flag is flying proudly from the upstairs window.
I just hope it won’t be down to halfmast by tomorrow tea-time as we attempt to pick our way through the wreckage of another crash-landing after Argentina in ‘98, Brazil in ‘02 and those Portu-geezers in ‘06.
There has been a huge over-reaction to England’s victory over little Slovenia to secure their ticket to the knockout stages.
A single-goal success over a small nation of just two million people has been hailed beyond all belief.
It was the first time we even threatened to hit the right notes for crying out loud, but it wasn’t enough to take us to the top of Group C.
We know it should have been Ghana today rather than the old enemy tomorrow, but there is no point worrying about what might have been.
The press are coming up with countless reasons why we will prevail. Even the fact we’ll be back in red again – just like when winning on Wednesday and when lifting the World Cup back in 1966 - is said to count in our favour. Other plusses apparently are: Germany have already been beaten - we haven’t.
Germany are going through a rebuilding programme - we are not.
Germany have a major injury doubt over one of their most influential players, Bastian Schweinsteiger – we have a clean bill of health.
Germany have the youngest average age of any squad in South Africa and will most likely field at least seven players aged under 26 - we are stacked with experience.
That last point is most salient. Their gifted young stars, including Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller and Sami Khedira, might just freeze.
But even if that is the case, our headline acts have to step up to the plate. We are certainly due a victory over another major nation and we need the likes of Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard to produce the best 90 minutes of their lives.
If they don’t deliver, it will be auf wiedersehen to England. WIN these three key battles and we have a big chance . . . Glen Johnson v Lukas Podolski Question marks remain over John- son in defensive situations and he is sure to be tested by Podolski.
Having to shackle such a tough opponent also means Johnson is likely to have to rein in his attacking instincts tomorrow.
Cologne man Podolski is a major danger operating from the German left. He cannot be allowed to cut inside with ease and must not be gifted shooting opportunities.
But if we get as far as a shoot-out, I’ll be more than happy if he steps up. Gareth Barry v Mesut Ozil The fit Gareth Barry has shown no signs of living up to the billing of the injured version.
Stock rose massively during his absence, but the only thing to go up since his return is the mis-placed pass count.
Ozil has quickly established himself as one of the stand-out individual performers of this World Cup.
His razor-sharp skills and creative talents have been in plentiful evidence so far and he can be afforded no space or time. Let him go and we’ll pay the same price as Ghana did the other did. Wayne Rooney v Arne Freidrich To borrow a few words from Eminem, could the real Wayne Rooney please stand up.
Our Scouse growler of a talisman has been unbelievably tame so far. No aggression, no spark and no sign that he is set to take this tournament by storm.
But Rooney is capable of exploding into life at any minute and we need that to happen just after 3pm tomorrow. The Germans are fearful of such a scenario - their best defender, Freidrich, has said as much in the build-up.
He’s a mean, no-frills customer who, at the age of 31, has seen it all. THE group stage is over. So, with the aid of a drum-roll, I will announce the first batch of ‘Blog for your Bog’ awards - it’s my team of the opening round in a 4-4-2 formation.