Wed, Aug 22, 2007 - Page 18 News List

England, Germany teams ready to rumble


England player Michael Owen takes part in a team training session at London Colney in Hertfordshire, north of London, on Monday.


England versus Germany at Wembley is a matchup that rekindles memories of great games of the past, from the 1966 World Cup final to the semi-final match of Euro '96.

It's a shame many of the big stars will be missing this one.

When the two teams take the field at the rebuilt 90,000 capacity stadium for today's friendly, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Owen Hargreaves won't be in the lineup for England, while Germany will be without Michael Ballack, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose.

David Beckham is also struggling to overcome his lingering ankle problem while Michael Owen is just returning to fitness and may only play one half at best.

The list of injuries goes on and rival coaches Steve McClaren and Joachim Loew are frustrated they won't have their first-choice lineups for what is traditionally a full-blooded confrontation.

"We are going to be missing experience, routine and leadership," Loew said. "Those missing are not easy to replace. It would have been good if we had the best possible team for this game, but we are not going to complain. It's a joy to be playing in this stadium."

England-Germany games always have an edge and no one will be taking it easy -- even if it is a friendly ahead of European Championship qualifiers next month.

Like Loew, McClaren hopes to have all his stars back by the time England plays Euro 2008 home games against Israel and Russia, matches his side must win to stay in contention for the two qualification spots from each group.

"What I hope to do is by the time Israel and Russia come along, it will be an extra three weeks they will have had to train and play," the England coach said. "Then we don't have a situation where we are sending players into a qualifying game who are not at the percentage they should be to be able to perform."

The players who come into this match, like England defender Micah Richards, and Germany winger David Odonkor, have the chance to make a big impression and force themselves into the regular starting lineup.

Although nothing is at stake apart from pride, today's game will have a special feeling because it is the first between the two sides to be played at the new stadium.

Germany was the last visitor to play in the old Wembley in October 2000 and won 1-0 in a qualifying game for the 2002 World Cup. England coach Kevin Keegan quit only minutes after the final whistle and his replacement, Sven-Goran Eriksson, guided the team to a spectacular 5-1 victory in Munich a year later, the last time the two teams met.

England's 4-2 extra time victory over West Germany at Wembley in 1966 is one of soccer's most memorable matches. It was followed four years later by the Germans' 3-2 victory at the World Cup in Mexico after England tossed away a 2-0 lead.

West Germany also won 3-1 at Wembley in a European Championship quarter-final in 1972 and edged England in a penalty shootout after a thrilling 1-1 draw in the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup in Italy. After unification, Germany achieved the same outcome at Euro '96 at Wembley before going on to win its third European title.

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