Germany-England rivalry heating up again

England goalkeeper Robert Green dives for the ball during a training session at the Green Point...

England goalkeeper Robert Green dives for the ball during a training session at the Green Point stadium in Cape Town. (REUTERS/Oleg Popov)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:37 PM ET

CAPE TOWN – It may just be the best lead in the history of sports journalism.

According to the London Independent, it was written by the late Frank McGhee, a sportswriter who was attempting to capture the enormity of the 1966 World Cup final between the visiting Germans and host England.

On the eve of that historic tilt at Wembley Stadium, McGhee, trying to offer perspective on the significance the game held for England, began his column with the following paragraph:

“If, on the morrow, the Germans beat us at our national game, we’d do well to remember that, twice this century, we have beaten them at theirs.”

Classic.

Obviously the rivalry between these two long-time foes is now solely focused on the soccer pitch, which hasn’t always been the case. Just open a history book and all will be revealed.

Having said that, with every passing day things appear to be getting spicier between these World Cup combatants.

Both teams will be in action Friday, with the Germans, fresh off a 4-0 humiliation of Australia, meeting a talented Ghana side in Port Elizabeth in Group D action. Here in Capetown, meanwhile, the English will attempt to improve on their 1-1 draw with the Group C rival Americans when they face an Algerian side they should be able to easily dispatch.

Should both teams hold true to form, they’ll be on a collision course to meet each other, either in the Round of 16 or the quarterfinal. The earlier date would play out if one of the teams finishes first in their group, the other second.

Of course, listening to German legend Franz Beckenbauer talk this week, you’d think England might have trouble getting that far.

Having observed England’s tournament-opening stalemate with the U.S., Der Kaiser, 64, shocked the soccer world by candidly stating he thinks the English have gone “backwards” under manager Fabio Capello, partially blaming the number of non-English players in the Premier League for the perceived problems.

“The British are being punished by the fact that there are so few English players in their teams,” Beckenbauer said. “There are too many foreign players coming from all over the world and this has its impact on the England game.”

Beckenbauer also accused the English of playing a “kick-and-rush” style, a suggestion that Capello quickly dismissed.

“It’s easy to speak about teams when you stay in the stands,” the English manager said, adding “we had to play long balls to go forward to win.”

English striker Wayne Rooney was more blunt on the subject. And rightly so.

Rooney is a warrior. Whether it’s playing in a physical game or protecting one of his mates during a scrap in the local pub, this is one pitbull you always want on your side.

Rooney’s emotional style sometimes leads to trouble on the pitch in the form of red cards. But he’s not one to back down from a fight. Ever. Even if it involves one of the sport’s all-time greats in Beckenbauer.

“Beckenbauer can say what he wants and think what he wants – we’re not listening,” Rooney said. “But we certainly don’t play kick and run. And, with any tournament, it is how you finish, not how you start, that counts.

“If you look at the Italians, four years ago they won the tournament and, in the group stage, they had been on the brink of going out.”

Rooney also chimed in on the Jabulani ball debate, claiming the Germans had an advantage because they were allowed to use it in the Bundesliga six months in advance. Adidas, the maker of the ball, is a German-based company.

When asked by a German reporter if he’d savour a date with Der Mannschaft in the knockout round, Rooney nodded yes.

Why?

“Because it would be nice to beat them.”

If, on the morrow ...

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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