Armchair Pundit

Ten reasons why England can beat Germany

Alex Chick

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Look, I know I said England have got no chance of winning the World Cup, and I stand by that.

But  my argument was never that England are rubbish. They aren't. They are good, although not exceptional.

My argument centred solely on the fact that in order to win the tournament, they will in all likelihood have to negotiate a fixture list of almost unprecedented difficulty.

But this match alone? England v Germany? There's no reason why we shouldn't win.

Well, OK there are some reasons. We've played like joyless drones so far, Germany have got further than England at every World Cup since 1966 and they'll almost certainly win if it goes to penalties.

But there are plenty of reasons for optimism, so let's focus on the positives and consider why England might be celebrating an unlikely victory.

1- It is a total myth that they always beat us. We have won three of our last five meetings, including a Euro 2000 meeting, the famous Munich 5-1 and their first defeat in Berlin for 35 years. And there was that game in 1966, but let's not slip into lazy nostalgia.

2- Speaking of 1966 nostalgia, the Germans are just as bad as us. My German uncle (no blood relation, he adds hastily) recently bought be a t-shirt that said 'Wembley '66', then on the back had a stick man hitting the crossbar above the words (in German, obviously): 'And it was not a goal!' Translation: for all their subsequent success, that match still rankles.

3- When Franz Beckenbauer said England were burnt out, he hadn't done his sums. The German side are just as battle-weary as us. Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira have been playing constantly since summer 2008 as they won last year's Euro Under-21s, and captain Philipp Lahm is on 64 games this season, more than anyone in the England squad,

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And why was Der Kaiser so irritated that 'stupid' England had contrived to finish second in their group? Because he fancied a nice, comfortable last 16 tie against the USA. Instead they have to face one of their biggest rivals (not the biggest - that honour goes to the Dutch).

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The Germans rate us, even if we don't. Maybe they weren't paying close attention to the Algeria debacle, but there is tangible anxiety at Eurosport-Yahoo!'s Munich office. English players might be overrated, but it seems foreigners buy into the hype as much as we do.

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Remember that Michael Ballack injury? The Germans were absolutely gutted that Chelsea's seventh-best midfielder was out of the World Cup. What does that tell you about them? Never mind that his absence has made them pacier and more dynamic. And don't mention the furore when David Beckham's Achilles went 'twang'.

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They aren't all tactical geniuses. Bild newspaper's recipe for German success included these gems: 'Lukas Podolski must shoot more' and 'Sami Khedira must block Frank Lampard's forward runs. He has experience against the English after stopping Craig Gardner at the Euro Under-21s.' Well, if you can stop Craig Gardner, you can stop anyone.

8- We've got the best player on the pitch. Seriously. He might not have done much in the World Cup so far, but have you seen that Wayne Rooney? He's brilliant. Let's not overthink things, the best way to build a good team is with good players. We have lots of them.

9- England are getting hammered for their 'arrogant' pre-match press conference which featured only eight questions from handpicked, all-English, journos. But Germany were even more shambolic, with coach Joachim Loew failing to turn up.

10- Look at Joachim Loew on the touchline against (from left to right) Australia, Serbia and Ghana. Look at him. The modern Germany isn't ruthlessly efficient. It's cool, stylish and just a little bit camp. How else do you think they are able to win Eurovision?

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