Friday, April 12, 2024

Old rivals ‘keeping it real

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JOHANNESBURG – Germany and England go head-to-head for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals today, both trying to ignore the hype that always surrounds their clashes on the field.Both sets of players are concentrating fully on the second-round match in Bloemfontein rather than the political and military rivalry dredged up – particularly by the English tabloid Press – whenever they meet.“It’s high time to forget [World War II],” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “This is year 2010, we are all in the EU [European Union] and it’s highly inappropriate to raise this subject.”The teams have enough history on the field to overshadow such facile discussion, anyway.Since England’s contentious 4-2 extra-time win over Germany in the 1966 World Cup final, Germany have won five of the 11 major tournament finals they have reached. England can count only semi-final appearances in the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championship, and lost both in penalty shoot-outs to Germany.“This is year 2010 and these games will not mean very much,” Germany captain Philipp Lahm said. “We were not born then.”England goalkeeper David James said his teammates have enough to think about as they prepare for a team that dismantled Australia 4-0, stumbled against Serbia, then beat Ghana.“There will be a lot of external references and historical references, but for us it’s a game against a decent outfit and we have to win to progress,” he said.The teams have not met at a major tournament for a decade but Loew said his team knows exactly what to expect.“England are always England. They’re a team with a lot of fighting spirit and very strong mentally, with incredible experience,” Loew said. “The axis with John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Wayne Rooney has the highest quality you can find in European football.”Rooney should have recovered from the ankle knock that forced his second-half withdrawal against Slovenia.Germany’s s biggest injury worry is Bastian Schweinsteiger, who sustained a right-thigh injury in the 1-0 win over Ghana. Schweinsteiger is bearing more midfield responsibility in this tournament because of the absence through injury of regular captain Michael Ballack. (AP)

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