FIFA World Cup 2010: England vs. Germany Is Experience vs. Youth
It is highly likely that the outcome of the Groups C and D was greeted by a collective groan by the majority of English and German football fans. Instead of being greeted to the knock-out stages by a so called "lesser" team, these two footballing giants must meet at the very first hurdle.
Both teams leave the groups with a hard fought 1-0 win under their respective belts. Both were in a position of needing to win their final group games to secure their passage through, as Germany could not have reasonably predicted an Australian win over Serbia.
Which manager would you rather be in the shoes of, Fabio Capello's hand-stitched Italian leather loafers or Jogi Loew's stylish smart-casual, pointed, black alternatives.
Joking aside, this match-up represents a clashing of styles: Capello's wary structured style, emphasising the experience which is rife within his team, and the new German style based around youth, pace and attack, attack, attack.
Allow me to highlight some of the pro's and con's of both
Pro's : The older heads in the England team represent the many on field generals which Capello has the luxuary of calling upon. In the defense goalkeeper David James and centre-backs John Terry and Jamie Caharrager are all leaders, guiding those around them to great effect. In midfield Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard play a similar role, leading the younger heads. Up front Wayne Rooney is hardly a shrinking violet.
These older, wiser heads know when to give a foul away and when to play into corners and when a booking is worth it. They can read a game after years of experience and they tend to remain calm on field under any circumstances (aside from penalty shootouts of course).
These players have also vitally played at large international tournaments before, they understand the pressure which will be upon them, they are braced for the weight of English expectation, which can be a crippling burden for the unprepared.
Con's : Pace, or lack of, is becoming a serious concern in the heart of the English defense. It is offset somewhat by the speedy duo of the English wing-backs, Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole. But with Johnson spending large portions of a game attacking the opponents half, a speedy winger could penetrate the box (something Germany have an abundance of) and cause havoc between Terry and his partner.
The lack of youth coming through the English ranks is incredibly obvious for all to see. Only Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips have made it into the squad from the younger English contingents.
Promising players like Manchester City's Adam Johnson and Micah Ricards and Everton's Jack Rodwell are notable only by their absence in the England set-up. Should these players miss out on integrating with the team, there will be a sudden influx of new players with little or no experience as they have been continually thwarted by older players.
Pro's : It is partly necessity which brings this young German squad to the 2010 World Cup.
Injuries to key players meant drastic actions had to be taken. Loew took what he could get and moulded a rather effective team, which scored and looked good doing it. A focus on youth was implemented by manager Jurgen Klinsmann at the 2006 World Cup, and his ex-assistant and successor Loew has benifitted from the stringent youth system introduced in recent years.
This Germany team has the rather modern ability to call upon highly talented individuals, who still fit into a traditional German system, where no one is above the team identity. Somehow the steely nerves have also somehow survived the transition from a team which ground out results, into a flair team.
Skill. The Germans have bags of it, Marko Marin, Musit Oezil, Piotr Trochowski, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller, to name a few are all capable of beating a man, with skill and with pace. This skill complements their ever improving passing abilities, in full swing the team becomes all but impossible to take the ball from.
Con's: There is a clear lack of experience in the German team, while the core based around captain Philipp Lahm, Bastain Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Podolski and Per Mertesacker have an amount of caps which belies their age. The group averages around 75 cap with only Klose being over 30-years-old. The rest are 24 or 25.
They have all been under the wings of Oliver Kahn, Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings at previous World Cups. Responsibility has been thrust on these players, and they have so far survived, but we are only just leaving the group stages.
Several members of the German team are lacking in physical strength. I don't expect this to be an issue by the next European Championships but here the older, bigger English players might well hold an advantage. Several of the German's are rather lightweight and will not challenge the likes of Terry for strength.
What is there to be taken from this?
This match will be incredibly tight, and unlikely to be decided by more than one goal.
Both teams defenses have creaked recently, and both are capable of scoring against the other.
This game might well be decided less by the defenses, but by which midfield can create the most, and by which striker is on form.
On current form Rooney is not able to carry England, and Jermain Defoe will be unlikely to be left unmarked in front of goal while Lahm is in charge of the defense.
Podolski has reverted to his club level for the last two games but the re-emergence of Klose will prove a welcome return.
If Oezil is not injured, and given any amount of time and space he can slip in a strike and must be considered a game changer, while if English clamours for Joe Cole are heard he is capable of the same.
Lampard vs. Schweinsteiger - A key match-up, they play slightly different roles, Lampard playing as central midfielder with licence to make late runs into the box and 'Schweini' is a deep-lying playmaker, but both can control the tempo of a game, if either is given time to spray passes around expect trouble for the opposing team.
Rooney vs. Mertesacker - Rooney's pace could prove troublesome for the bean-pole defender. But should the contest come down to strength expect Rooney to have a tought time against both of the giant German centre backs.
Barry vs. Oezil - Defensive midfield against attacking midfield. Barry's positional sense and tackling abilities make him a tough foe for Oezil. But Barry's lack of acceleration might see tricky winger Werder Bremen winger slip by him.
Jubulani vs. The Goalkeepers - Both teams have long-range specialists and a gut wrenching twist or dive of the ball might spell the difference between victory and defeat.
I don't have the gall to call what might happen in this game, I truly believe that it is there to be won by either side, and one glittering moment of skill or unforgivable mistake might be the turning point for either side.
Are you confident in your prediction? Have I missed a key duel? Leave a comment below.
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