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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014

Football

England, Germany test World Cup credentials
AFP
London, November 18, 2013
First Published: 09:09 IST(18/11/2013)
Last Updated: 09:14 IST(18/11/2013)

England's World Cup ambitions will be placed beneath an unforgiving spotlight on Tuesday when they tackle arch rivals Germany at Wembley Stadium in their final fixture of 2013.

Roy Hodgson's side saw a 10-game unbeaten run ended in disappointing fashion by Chile on Friday and in Germany they face a team who dropped only two points in qualifying for next year's World Cup in Brazil.

The game is the latest chapter in a story that has conjured up some of the most enduring images in the sport's history, from England's triumph in the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley to the Germans' spot-kick success in the European Championship semi-finals on the same turf 30 years later.

The sides have been evenly matched in recent encounters, with three wins apiece in the six matches that have taken place since the turn of the century.

Their last encounter, however, was crushingly one-sided, with Germany running out 4-1 victors in a last-16 tie at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa that left deep scars on the English psyche.

Germany ultimately went out in the semi-finals and they also fell in the last four at Euro 2012, but England midfielder Frank Lampard believes that Joachim Loew's men are now an even more formidable prospect.

"They've got a very, very strong international squad, not just the XI," said the Chelsea midfielder.

"Their style of play is very good. I think they've improved."

Lampard was famously denied a goal in that 2010 Bloemfontein encounter despite his lobbed half-volley crossing the line with England 2-1 behind, but the 35-year-old says Tuesday's friendly will not be a revenge mission.

"Coming home from then, there was a very negative feel; not just press and public, but in the squad itself," he said.

"We were disappointed with ourselves and I think we've got a bit more of a positive feel back again now."

He added: "They're our rivals, and not in a terrible way -- it's a good rivalry. We've got a lot of respect for them, but we want to beat them. There's a lot at stake for us."

England manager Hodgson has pledged to field his strongest possible side after making several experimental adjustments against Chile.

Joe Hart, Ashley Cole and captain Steven Gerrard are among the players expected to return to the starting XI, while Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has declared himself fit following a foot injury.

Germany drew 1-1 with Italy in a friendly in Milan on Friday, after a run of four consecutive wins in which they had scored 14 goals.

Like Hodgson, Loew has only one further friendly game lined up before he announces his squad for the World Cup -- against Chile in March -- but injuries have forced his hand for the meeting with England.

Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira will be out for around six months after rupturing knee ligaments against Italy, while Bayern Munich pair Manuel Neuer and Philipp Lahm, the captain, have also withdrawn from the squad.

In addition, Loew has decided to rest Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil, who was unable to train fully in the build-up to the match in Milan.

"The England game is our last chance before the World Cup to try out one or two new tactical variations and personnel," said Loew, whose side are currently ranked second to Spain in the world.

"Philipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer and Mesut Ozil are part of the absolute backbone of our team and for me, it is more important now to give other players a chance to prove themselves in these key positions, particularly against such a strong team as England."

Neuer's absence means that goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller will win his first cap, at a ground where his Borussia Dortmund side were dealt an agonising defeat by Bayern in the Champions League final in May.

Ozil's Arsenal team-mate Per Mertesacker is also in line to play after sitting out the draw with Italy through illness.


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