England, Germany special kind of rivals

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:43 PM ET

PORT ELIZABETH - It is England-Germany.

It is a rivalry that transcends sport -- and any good Englishman will be quick to tell you who leads the all-time series in the history books.

It is pints versus steins.

It is Geoffrey Hurst scoring a hat trick in the 1966 final against Der Mannschaft at the old Wembley, bringing England its only World Cup title, a well deserved one.

It is the same Geoffrey Hurst admitting years later that his winning goal that memorable day against the Germans actually did not cross the line, a conclusion he came to after watching video replays of it over and over again.

It is Franz (Der Kaiser) Beckenbauer, the German legend who might now rue flapping his gums earlier in South Africa 2010 when he said the English had regressed under manager Fabio Capello.

It is Fabio Capello, who, behind that stone-faced demeanour, would probably like to take Beckenbauer's words and shove it right up his Schweinsteiger.

It is Wayne Rooney, whose wonky ankle will be the hot topic from now until game time Sunday.

It is Frank Lampard who, while still searching for his first career World Cup goal, is beginning to round into the form that makes him one of the top players in the Premier League.

It is young German sensation Mesut Ozil, the 21-year-old kid who scored a spectacular goal in a 1-0 win against Ghana on Sunday, the type of brilliance that has English clubs Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City reportedly all clamouring for his services.

It is the 1970 World Cup quarter-final in the sweltering Mexican heat when the Germans came back from a 2-0 deficit to claim a dramatic 3-2 win.

It is the tears of the wonderfully colourful Paul Gascoigne and teammates during a heartbreaking semifinal loss in penalties to the Germans during the 1990 World Cup tournament in Italy.

It is Dietmar Hamann scoring off a free kick for the final goal at the old Wembley as the Germans edged England 1-0 on Oct. 7, 2000.

It is England marching into Munich and humiliating the hosts 5-1 on Sept, 1 2001, part of the qualification round of the 2002 World Cup.

It is all of that. And more.

And it is Sunday at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein as part of The Round of 16 at South Africa 2010.

Hopefully, if both teams play up to potential, it won't get much better than this.

CLASH OF THE TITANS

In a tournament that lacked spice early on, suddenly there is some bite to the 2010 World Cup.

Not only is the Germany-England matchup intriguing this early on, but the Argentina-Mexico Group of 16 showdown in Johannesburg on Sunday could produce some offensive fireworks from two teams that are very familiar with each other.

Argentina's Lionel Messi has been the tournament's most dynamic player yet has not found the back of the net. He's left a few dents in some goal posts though.

But easily the most delicious meeting that could take place in the Round of 16 would be a Brazil-Spain affair, a pairing many ink-stained wretches (including your's truly) picked to go head to head in the July 11 final in Johannesburg.

That these two could meet so much earlier speaks to the unpredictable nature of South Africa 2010.

Either way, some of these juicy matchups in the upcoming Round of 16 certainly bodes well for the tournament's momentum.

EUROPE FIGHTS BACK

It seems tales of the European demise at South Africa 2010 have been greatly exaggerated.

Netherlands, England and Germany have all qualified for the next round. Italy is in a "win-and-your-in" situation Thursday while the Portuguese looked dominant in a 7-0 victory earlier this week.

Spain has also looked better.

The French? OK, so no one's perfect.


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