Early Doors

Another generation of hurt?

Early Doors

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Apparently, there is some history between England and Germany. Some of it even transcends football. Not that you'd know it from headlines such as "We're ready for Germ warfare" and "Job done, now bring on the Hun" or anything.

The fixations over 1966, 1970, 1990 and 1996 are still so keenly maintained in England that you only have to list those years and it will be known you're either having a conversation about football matches between those two countries or favourite Beatles reissues.

Unfortunately references to other, more serious conflicts between the two nations preceding those years are still rife even now, when they should have died out along with Uncle Albert.

No one bothers mentioning 2000, despite the fact that England won that instalment, because both teams limped out of the European Championships in pathetic fashion, leaving Zinedine Zidane to play more good football in Holland and Belgium that summer than both sides put together.

And yes, England may have beaten the Germans twice in the last decade, but one was a match to qualify for a World Cup that Germany ended as runners-up, and the other was a friendly.

But this last 16 clash between the two sides in Bloemfontein on Sunday is especially intriguing because it comes at a potentially era-defining moment in the footballing history of both nations.

For many of England's leading players this could well be their last World Cup, if not their final tournament full stop. For Germany, the absence of Michael Ballack through injury has inadvertently confirmed the heralding of a new generation of Mannschaft players.

Due to retirements, injuries and simply dropping off the radar, England have taken 11 players to South Africa who also went to the last World Cup, while Germany have only retained seven of the squad that hosted the tournament four years ago.

Joachim Loew has called up six of the players that humbled England 4-0 in the final of the U21 European Championships last summer to this tournament.

Mesut Ozil was the shining star in Sweden, and threatens to be one of the leading lights here too. He is joined from that competition by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer - who, through a combination of injury and tragedy, has found himself in possession of the number one jersey - defenders Jerome Boateng and Dennis Aogo, and fellow midfielders Sami Khedira and Marko Marin, who looks so young he could be here on work experience.

Fabio Capello - having eschewed the services of Adam Johnson, Gabriel Agbonlahor and, most notably, Theo Walcott - has James Milner and Joe Hart as the only players from that tournament at his disposal.  

This is not to say that that the fact England's oldest ever squad face Germany's youngest since 1934 is any guarantee of failure. The lack of inexperience within Loew's players could prove the key to finally breaking the dispiriting hold they have over this fixture when it really counts and, as David James said yesterday, winning this match is an achievable target for England.

But it does show just how difficult fresh talent is to come by for the FA. As top football writer Paul Hayward told EB following the 0-0 draw with Algeria, there is a lot of hope pinned on England's U17 side that won their European Championships in May, but there will be at least two senior tournaments between this one and when the likes of Connor Wickham are likely to fully emerge.  

Beat Germany on Sunday, and England can nip another sickeningly successful generation of talented Germans bred on success in the bud. Lose, and it could be the start of another 44 years of hurt.

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Poor old Sven-Goran Eriksson. Not only has he had once more been undone at a World Cup by Brazil and Portugal, as manager of Ivory Coast this time, but he has had to sit there and watch the Mexico side he did his best to derail reach the second round.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Before the World Cup I thought England would play a major role in the tournament, maybe win the title. They have a great team and a great coach and then after the first two games I was so disappointed - not angry, but very, very disappointed. Maybe this (attack on England) was the reaction of my disappointment, but I apologise. Because I like England and English football I am really a big, big fan of the English style. Maybe it was a reaction because I was disappointed, maybe I was in a bad mood. In other words I apologised already and now I look forward to the game on Sunday. I think it will be a very, very interesting game." - Franz Beckenbauer is contrite after his not-really-that-bad-really comments were whipped up into a vicious on Queen and country by the UK press.

FOREIGN VIEW: "I think it was a great show, a football feast." - Portugal boss Carlos Quieroz must have been watching a different match to the dour goalless draw against Brazil that EB saw.

BOERMY ARMY TWEET OF THE DAY: "@EarlyBoers Has anyone see James Milner take a penalty before???? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0Q4FxzsSKc" - Kerley92 provides evidence that casting James Milner as one of England's Infamous Five penalty takers may not be the best idea.

COMING UP: It's a Knockout! Celebrate the fact that there are no more dead rubbers by following our live text commentary of the first two second round matches and imagining the voice of Stuart Hall as you read updates on Uruguay v South Korea (15:00) and USA v Ghana (19:30).

Plus, there's the Armchair Pundit with his daily briefing on last night's action and today's matches.

There will be plenty of analysis from our select squad of experts.

And the World Cup news ticker is already ticking away with World Cup news. Just as it should be.

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