Anglo-German World Cup rivalry touches G20 summit

TORONTO (Reuters) - G20 summit or no G20 summit, the leaders of Britain and Germany plan to take time off from the talks for Sunday’s England-Germany World Cup clash that could test their alliance as much as any financial dispute.

Prime Minister David Cameron watches England's 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match against Slovenia inside 10 Downing Street in London June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Andrew Parsons/handout

New British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are looking to break away from the high-intensity economic discussions to watch at least some of the high-octane soccer clash together.

“There is an idea we might try and watch it together. I will try not to wrestle her to the ground during penalties, but we will have to see,” Cameron told reporters.

England and Germany, arch-rivals and big powers in European soccer for decades, have met frequently, most famously in the World Cup final which England won in 1966.

That was long ago -- it was actually the year of Cameron’s birth -- and Germany have won the cup twice in the meantime.

Asked if the delegates had exchanged words on Sunday’s game, which will decide which team reaches the last eight, Cameron’s spokesman said: “They know what our position is.”

Merkel confirmed she would be watching the match and would discuss with Cameron where they might do so together.

Showing her mind was as much on football goals as financial goals, she told reporters she was hoping midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger would have recovered from an injury sustained in the country’s last game with Ghana.

Delegations from the two countries already appeared to be squaring up to each other. A German flag was pinned to the UK room in the G20 media centre. On it was scrawled: “See you on Sunday” alongside a smiley face.

Soccer fever is gripping several other delegations including the United States, underdogs who have also made it through to the last 16.

A U.S. administration official said that in addition to the global economy, Iran and Afghanistan, President Barack Obama would also be discussing the World Cup when he meets Cameron for the first time since the latter took office last month.

The president may take the opportunity to gently tease the prime minister.

“We’ll also be able to discuss the victory of the United States in the group that both the United States and England were in,” the official said, referring to England’s embarrassing failure to head the group.

“I’m sure President Obama will be able to make a few points in that regard,” he added.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, whose team made it to the next round, also brought up the competition with Merkel when the two met on Friday.

“Prime Minister Kan said he wanted the two countries to meet in the final. Germany said they faced tough teams down the line,” a Japanese government official said.