England pick ideal moment to face feared Germany | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 18.11.2013
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England pick ideal moment to face feared Germany

England versus Germany at Wembley - few international fixtures and locations are so steeped in history. In recent years, Germany tend to fare better there - but Tuesday's friendly offers the English a glimmer of hope.

Thomas Mueller (L) of Germany celebrates with Jerome Boateng and Lukas Podolski after scoring the 3-1 during the 2010 FIFA World Cup round of 16 match between Germany and England at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa 27 June 2010. Photo: Bernd Weissbrod dpa - Please refer to http://dpaq.de/FIFA-WM2010-TC

'Football's a game of 90 minutes, and at the end Germany wins' - the 2010 World Cup vintage

Joachim Löw's side could only draw 1-1 in his 100th game at the helm on Friday against Italy, prompting headlines like "Germany never beats us!" in the Italian press over the weekend. This claim was less hyperbolic than you might think - Germany have only beaten Italy seven times in 32 attempts over the years.

In a role reversal of sorts, Tuesday's match at Wembley Stadium will see England take on a team its fans have come to fear in the modern era. A shock 2-0 defeat at the hands of visitors Chile on Friday was hardly the perfect preparation for the Germans' visit.

COLOGNE, GERMANY - OCTOBER 10: Sami Khedira (L) and Mesut Oezil of Germany talk during a press conference ahead of the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier match against Republic of Ireland on October 10, 2013 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Juergen Schwarz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Özil and Khedira are among the high-profile absentees

But there are two major reasons why the English might still hope for a Wembley upset: Joachim Löw's side is missing a string of stars, and - perhaps more importantly - the match is ultimately meaningless.

Even in the modern era, Germany and England's head-to-head record is deceptively balanced. In six encounters since the Euro 96 semifinal penalty shootout (no prizes for guessing who triumphed from the spot!) the two sides have three wins apiece. But the perceived imbalance lies in Germany's ability to beat the English when it matters most, like Löw's 4-1 win in the round of 16 at the last World Cup.

England coach Roy Hodgson even said that friendlies should not "be used as an enormous barometer of how good or poor [a team] is at any moment in time" ahead of the match, perhaps after hearing the news that Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Mesut Özil were all sent home after the Italy match so that Joachim Löw could experiment with other options. It's a bold move from the German coach considering that he's already missing stars like Sami Khedira, Ilkay Gündogan, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Holger Badstuber and Mario Gomez through injury.

Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic (2nd R) celebrates with team mates after scoring during their Champions League Final soccer match against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium in London May 25, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Germany's stars from Dortmund and Bayern might be distracted by Saturday evening's Bundesliga meeting

That said, Roy Hodgson's side could be stronger too, after Manchester United players Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick all returned to their club following the Chile defeat.

A record-breaker in goal?

Wayne Rooney and his attacking accomplices are also likely to face an international debutante in the German goal on Tuesday. Yet it would be unfair to consider Borussia Dortmund's Roman Weidenfeller as an inexperienced new boy; should the 33-year-old be the one to start in Neuer's stead, he would become the oldest debutante in the history of German goalies.

Fussball Champions League Halbfinale Spiel 1: Borussia Dortmund gegen Real Madrid C.F. am 24.04.2013 im Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund (Nordrhein-Westfalen). Der Dortmunder Torwart Roman Weidenfeller jubelt. Foto: Frederic Scheidemann/dpa

International debuts rarely come much later in life

Weidenfeller, who said that making his Germany debut at Wembley would be "the dot on the i," might well face another late-bloomer in the England front line. Journeyman striker Rickie Lambert made his debut aged 31 earlier this season - and he's scored two goals in his first three games wearing three lions on his shirt. However, in-form Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge might beat Lambert to the starting spot, if Hodgson trusts that he's fully fit.

Both countries are preparing themselves for the World Cup in Brazil, although Germany is considered much more likely to compete for the grand prize.

Following the German model

As well as facing their old footballing foes, the England team will get a closer look at a possible role model as the Football Association (FA) seeks a new direction for the national team. After Rio Ferdinand's criticisms earlier in the year that England lack an "identity," the FA included Ferdinand in a new task force, charged with fostering a unified playing philosophy for the national team.

ARCHIV - In der Verlängerung des Fußball-WM-Endspiels England - Bundesrepublik Deutschland im Londoner Wembley-Stadion fällt das umstrittene dritte Tor (Archivfoto vom 30.07.1966). Der englische Stürmer Geoff Hurst (r) knallt den Ball unter die Latte, der deutsche Torhüter Hans Tilkowski (l) kommt nicht an das Leder, dem der deutsche Abwehrspieler Willi Schulz (M) bei seinem Flug nachschaut. Es wird nach Befragen des russischen Linienrichters schließlich auf Tor entschieden. England geht mit 3:2 in Führung und gewinnt am Ende mit 4:2 und damit den Weltmeistertitel (zu dpa-Themenpaket 100 Jahre Fußball-Länderspiele). Foto: dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

England and Germany both lifted their last international trophies at the old Wembley

Coach Hodgson, another member of the 10-person task force, suggested that Germany's rejuvenation under Jürgen Klinsmann and then Joachim Löw could serve as inspiration for the English revamp.

"I think the German FA were very wise in their attitude to changing the face of the national team and building it on youth and a very energetic style of play," Hodgson told the FA's website at the weekend. "As far as we're concerned, we are perhaps to some extent in that transitional period I mentioned Germany found themselves in going into the 2006 World Cup. We have what we think is a very exciting group of young players coming along and we still have a backbone of experienced players that have been to World Cups before."

Fans in England and Germany alike might feel somewhat starved for international silverware nowadays. Germany lifted its last major trophy at the old Wembley in Euro 1996, while England's barren run stretches back to the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany in the same stadium.

England have the chance to put a different losing streak to bed in the new Wembley arena on Tuesday, having last beaten Germany on home turf in 1975. They might still be the underdogs, but the timing for the encounter could scarcely be better.

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