Thursday, 24 June 2010

Rivalry Resumed

It has been nine years since England recorded one of their most famous and emphatic of victories, a 5-1 thrashing of Germany. England's fans and players will be hoping for history to repeat itself this Sunday as the two sides meet in the last-16 of the World Cup.

England and Germany both finished the group stage with 1-0 wins over Slovenia and Ghana respectively. A Jermain Defoe goal put the inquest into the state of English football on hold, for a little while at least. The performance of the team was much improved. Gerrard played with far greater discipline on the left wing which gave the side much needed balance. England were more aggressive without the ball and incisive with it and the had it not been for some wayward finishing the scoreline could have looked more convincing. Had England found the net two more times then they could have avoided meeting their fierce rivals Germany in the next round and bigger teams beyond it.

Germany took part in an entertainingly open match against Ghana yesterday evening and eventually began to stamp their authority on the game by the second half. A great strike by one of the star players of the tournament thus far, Mesut Ozil, was all that separated the two sides. Ghana exploited Germany's defensive weaknesses on a number of occasions and had they not progressed despite losing the match then they will have no doubt have felt aggrieved at not getting at least a point out of the match.

Needless to say, neither Germany nor England have faced a stern enough test to assess their true quality yet. Both have had mixed performances in their group games but it would be safe to assume that Sunday's game bring more out of each team. Many optimistic fans are quietly confident of England's chances against this new-look Germany side. The view shared by many is that a match against Germany is just what Capello's men need to help them elevate their game.

Franz Beckenbauer has once again been outspoken about the England team. Having accused them of playing 'kick and rush football' in their opening game he has now called the England team 'stupid'. The Fuhrer was not referring John Terry's attempt to block a shot with his face, which was as stupid as it was brave. He was referring to England's failure to top their group and avoid the much tougher side of the draw. Unfortunately he is right. Germany may not strike the same level of fear as they used to but they are certainly a trickier obstacle than Ghana will have been. If England can overcome Germany on Sunday then they will probably go on to face their other great footballing rivals Argentina in the quarter-finals, assuming Maradona's team beat Mexico in their next match.

England may have put in a much improved display against Slovenia yesterday to qualify for the final 16 but they are now paying the price for their slow, or stationary, start to the competition. One thing goes without question, Rooney must improve if England are to progress far into the knock-out stage. He was more like usual self yesterday but the striker is still not anywhere near his formidable best, perhaps a match against the Germans will give him the extra motivation he needs.

The elephant in the room is the dreaded 'p' word. Expect to hear a lot about penalties in the build up to England's clash with Germany and it will not make for easy listening for England fans. The Three Lions have exited four of their last six International tournaments from the penalty spot and have lost all three of their World Cup penalty shoot-outs. The Germans have never lost a penalty-shoot-out at a World Cup having won all four that they have taken-part in.

The action at Wimbledon, meanwhile, is doing its best to steal the spotlight from events in South Africa as the records continued to tumble - 6 in total - in the epic and metronomic match between Mahut and Isner. The two players have just finished their enthralling slugfest that started on Tuesday afternoon. There was over eleven hours of play until the American Isner emerged an exhausted winner with a score of 70-68 in the fifth set. Andy Murray went through in straight sets infront of the Queen but this was eclipsed by this historic match. The quality of the tennis took a back seat in the comically bizarre contest as the crowds rallied around Court 18 to see what became a sporting freak show. The games were been predictable, the rallies non-existent and yet this match encapsulated those people at SW19 just through its display of stamina and will power.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

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