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England take on German nemesis in football classic

Text by Benjamin DODMAN

Latest update : 2010-06-27

Old foes England and Germany will revive one of football’s greatest –and most one-sided– rivalries on Sunday when they battle for a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

England hopes to chase away the ghosts of past football failures on Sunday as they take on dreaded rivals Germany in a knockout match at Bloemfontein.

Despite their poor run of form in the tournament so far, Fabio Capello’s men enter the contest bearing the uncomfortable tag of favourites.

England have the bigger stars, and they have more of them. They also have bucket loads of experience relative to a German team with an average age of 25.

Yet, despite the bombast back home and the players’ confident talk, England fans cannot help harbouring a sense of fear.

Past record suggests they have every reason to: Time and again, Germany have stamped out England’s ambitions with ruthless efficiency, while their list of achievements in competitive games dwarfs England’s hugely over-hyped record.

44 years of hurt

Since lifting their only World Cup at Wembley in 1966, England have reached the semi-finals of a major tournament only twice, at the 1990 World Cup and on home turf during the 1996 European championship. Both times they faced Germany and both times it ended in tears.

The fact that both defeats came on penalties –a  trial where nerves count more than ball skills– illustrates how much of a mental hold Germany enjoy over their rivals.

No wonder Capello has urged his players not to look to the past. More practically, he has also got them practicing penalty kicks.

No sooner had England been paired with Germany than the English press was serving out reassuring reports of regular practice at penalty-taking in the England camp.

This time, there will be no England players stepping up to take a career-first penalty – as was the (ill-fated) case with David Batty in the 1998 defeat to Argentina.

Date created : 2010-06-27

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