England – Germany (Friendly Match)
The last time the English team beat Germany in London was thirty-eight years ago, this will be their six attempts since then. Plus, the Germans have inflicted the Three Lions some harsh defeats: in the Euro 96 semi-finals, the last game at old Wembley, the first game at the new Wembley for that matter or in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. So even if they try to convince us that this is just another friendly match we know better. Preparation to Brazil is key but the game is “know your enemy”.
The qualification to the World Cup, after beating Poland and Montenegro brought the English squad and their fans a temporary sense of euphoria. The friendly against Chile, last weak, was a reality check and a remainder of what awaits the Three Lions next summer in Brazil: top level teams playing high pace technical sophisticated football. England are not the best team to qualify but are not the worst either. To beat the favourites they need to be at their very best. And on Friday they clearly were not. First there were the fitness issues with players dropping like flies. Then Roy Hodgson’s experimentations with the lineup, introducing débutants. It was the time to do it. Unless there are some late impediments Roy Hodgson’s XI is rather clear. Still it lacks strength and depth and he wanted the opportunity to try new talent. So England lost to Chile 0-2, both goals by Alexis Sanchez. No drama. Just take a step back, learn a thing or two and rally the troops. At this World Cup launching pad stage it’s important to face and overcome strong teams, as England did with Brazil early this year, 1-2 at home and 2-2 away. Germany is next.
Joe Hart will be back at the keeper’s position and so will most of the players involved in the qualifiers. Hodgson said Adam Lallana would start for the second time. Steven Gerrard should be ready to return and so should Kyle Walker and Daniel Sturridge. Phil Jones is the one casualty the English team has for this clash.
Probable lineup: Joe Hart – Kyle Walker, Chris Smalling, Phil Jagielka, Ashley Cole – Cleverly, Gerrard – Lallana, Rooney, Townsend – Sturridge.
Let’s face it, Germany is in everyone’s top five candidates to win the World Cup. Die Mannschaft has a steady group of extraordinarily gifted players that have been playing together for quite some time. They have the German efficiency but also the charisma that lack in so many other formations. They play in all the major leagues, in the strongest clubs of the world. So if you want to prepare for the task ahead you better face the best opposition. Germany qualified to the World Cup easily, losing only two points in 10 games, in a 4-4 draw with Sweden, and they scored 36 goals in the process. Last week’s game against Italy ended in nightmare. Not for the 1-1 equalizer, of course, but for Sami Khedira. He suffered a torn knee ligament and following test revealed he would need surgery to fix it. The operation he had on Sunday went well but will take him six months to recover to fitness, a little too close to the World Cup.
Joachim Low is determined to rest the “backbone of the German squad”, that is to say Mesut Ozil, Philip Lahm and Manuel Neuer will be watching from the sidelines. I dare say that Weidenfeller, Reus and Gotze will hit the ground running. The manager wants to try new tactical variations and give other players some time on the pitch.
Sebastian Schweinsteiger is also out because of injury.
Probable lineup: Weidenfeller – Schmelzer, Mertesacker, Hummels, Jansen – Sven Bender, Lars Bender – Reus, Gotze, Draxler – Muller.
The last time England and Germany faced each other was in South Africa, and Die Mannschaft 4-1 victory sent them to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup. Now they meet again, both sides already qualified to Brazil and looking to test themselves against tough opposition. England is hoping for a win over powerful Germany to bounce back from Chile’s failure. Just not sure if this is the ideal opponent to do so.