England need to forget past to beat Germany
BLOEMFONTEIN (Reuters) - Germany have got physical problems while England's are mainly in their heads as the two old foes prepare to land the first heavyweight knockout blow in the World Cup on Sunday.
If past events are anything to go by, their fifth meeting in the World Cup finals and their first since the then-West Germany beat England on penalties in the 1990 semi-finals, is unlikely to end in a straightforward victory for either side.
Something unusual, memorable, dramatic or controversial is almost bound to occur when they come face to face for their second-round tie at the Free State Stadium (1400 GMT), because when England play Germany, something always does.
The past may not be in the least bit relevant when the match kicks off but certain echoes from their previous tumultuous encounters will resonate down through the years.
Physically, the past has left no scars on the present, but mentally, England's players must overcome the inferiority complex they seem to have when they play the Germans, or any other major power, when it matters most.
Since beating West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final the only teams England have beaten in a World Cup knockout match over the last 44 years have been Paraguay, Belgium, Cameroon, Ecuador and Denmark, and they have never reached another World Cup or European championship final either.
By contrast, Germany have appeared in 11 major finals, winning the World Cup twice (1974, 1990), been runners-up three times (1982, 1986, 2002) and won three European titles and been beaten in three finals.
They have no fears about meeting other big teams while the Three Lions on England's badge seemed to turn into little timid pussycats when faced with serious opposition.
England go into the match with no fresh injuries other than the long-term one that has sidelined center-back Ledley King but Germany do have a serious concern over Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The midfielder, described as "the heart" of the team by coach Joachim Loew, "would only play if he is 100 percent fit," Loew added.
The 25-year-old picked up a thigh muscle injury in their final Group D match against Ghana while defender Jerome Boateng was also doubtful following his calf muscle injury in the same game.
Loew said 20-year-old midfielder Toni Kroos, who came on as a substitute for Schweinsteiger late in the Ghana match, could replace him from the start.
Left back Holger Badstuber, who had started in Germany's two other group encounters against Australia and Serbia, is expected to replace Boateng.
England coach Fabio Capello might have no fresh injury concerns but will be looking for a huge improvement over their three group stage matches if they are to have any hope of advancing to the last eight.
His main job before the match starts is to convince his players that previous failures count for little and that their whole mental approach must focus on the positive if they are to win. At least his men have been practicing penalties.
England's defeats by the Germans in the 1990 World Cup semi-finals in Italy, and the 1996 European championship at Wembley Stadium, still feel like fresh wounds to England's long-suffering fans.
Their fears of another failure will surely be realized unless England forget the past and play like Lions instead of pussycats.
(Editing by Sonia Oxley)
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