Preview: England v Germany
27 Jun 2010 - 12:27:58
A familiar sight is blocking England's path to a probable quarter-final clash with Argentina, another recognisable foe, with Germany looking to secure their third successive knock-out win over the 'old enemy'.
The traditional German dominance isn't as thorough as is perceived, with two victories coming for England in their last three competitive matches against Germany - a 1-0 win at the group stage of Euro 2000 and the famous 5-1 rout in Munich in 2001.
The teams are all but unrecognisable from the ones that competed almost ten years ago, with Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Emile Heskey and Jamie Carragher remaining for England, while German striker Miroslav Klose was on the bench that day but should start on Sunday.
As that suggests, Germany have a largely inexperienced squad for Joachim Low to pick from should injuries strike and they indeed have started to take a toll, particularly on the midfield.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, by far the most capped midfielder, looks likely to make it despite a thigh problem.
Mesut Ozil, their most creative presence, twisted his ankle but should start, while left-back Jerome Boateng will require a late fitness test on a sore calf. Holger Badstuber, despite looking exposed there against Serbia, would take Boateng's place.
Those injury problems helped prompt captain Philipp Lahm to declare 'England are favourites,' before adding: "They are top players, they have a top manager and they all play in the Premier League."
Those facts didn't help England in their opening two matches of the World Cup, when woeful performances resulted in draws against USA and Algeria, although an improved outing against Slovenia suggested that Fabio Capello's side could be about to get it right when it matters.
England's selection issues are likely to revolve more around choice than circumstance, with only Ledley King potentially ruled out due to a groin strain.
The performance of Matt Upson, filling in for King at centre-back in the 1-0 win over Slovenia, might have kept him in the team ahead of a fit King anyway and should ensure that Jamie Carragher is left on the bench, despite returning from a one-match suspension.
There is otherwise little doubt that rest of the team will be unchanged, with James Milner's crossing ability and defensive cover keeping him on the right-wing, Steven Gerrard's improved performance earning him a further chance on the opposite flank and Jermain Defoe's goal keeping him alongside Wayne Rooney in attack.
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