Menu

Germany, England ignore hype over WCup meeting

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Germany and England go head to head for a place in the World Cup quarterfinals on Sunday, both trying to ignore the hype that always surrounds their soccer matches.

Both sets of players are concentrating fully on the second-round game in Bloemfontein rather than the history of one of the sport's greatest rivalries.

Since England's contentious 4-2 extra-time win over Germany in the 1966 World Cup final, Germany has won five of the 11 major tournament finals it has reached. England can count only semifinal appearances in the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championship, and lost both in shootouts to Germany.

"This is year 2010 and these games will not mean very much," Germany captain Philipp Lahm said. "We were not born then."

England goalkeeper David James said his teammates have enough to think about as they prepare for a team that dismantled Australia 4-0, stumbled against Serbia, then beat Ghana.

"There will be a lot of external references and historical references, but for us it's a game against a decent outfit and we have to win to progress," James said.

The teams have not met at a major tournament for a decade but Loew said his team knows exactly what to expect.

"England is always England. It's team with a lot of fighting spirit and very strong mentally, with incredible experience," Loew said. "The axis with John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney has the highest quality you can find in European football."

Rooney should have recovered from an ankle problem that forced his second-half substitution against Slovenia.

Germany's biggest injury worry is Bastian Schweinsteiger, who hurt his right thigh in the 1-0 win over Ghana. Schweinsteiger carried more midfield responsibility in this tournament due to the absence of injured regular captain Michael Ballack.

Loew said there was a "very big question mark" on the midfielder for Sunday's game.

Forward Cacau will miss the match after pulling an abdominal muscle in practice. Defender Jerome Boateng is also likely to miss the game because of a calf injury, but striker Miroslav Klose is available after sitting out the Ghana match with suspension.

The other game Sunday has Argentina, winner of Group B with three victories, against Group A runner-up Mexico at Johannesburg.

England has not lived up to its pre-tournament hype so far, laboring to draws against the United States and Algeria before edging unheralded Slovenia 1-0 to squeeze into the next round. Coach Fabio Capello said the Slovenia win rekindled the spirit of the impressive qualifying series and believes the English have no reason to fear any team, even one against which they have such a checkered history.

"When people look at what's happened over the years, all you remember is losing to Germany on penalties, but this is a different game and a different team," said striker Jermain Defoe, who scored against Slovenia. "It's about having a clear head. Forget about what happened before and focus."

While Germany has not missed a penalty kick in a World Cup shootout since Uli Stielike's saved shot against France in 1982, England has consistently failed in shootouts at major tournaments. Besides the two losses to Germany, England also lost to Argentina and twice to Portugal on spot kicks.

Mexico will get the chance to erase a grudge nursed for four years when it meets Argentina at Soccer City.

At the 2006 World Cup, Argentina beat Mexico thanks to an extraordinary goal by Maxi Rodriguez in the round of 16. Now, they are together again.

"I have a thorn in my side from four years ago and hopefully on Sunday we can take it out," said midfielder Rafael Marquez, who scored Mexico's goal in that 2-1 defeat in 2006.

But the challenge looks formidable against Diego Maradona's attack-minded team, which everyone seems to want to avoid this time around.

And it's not just the prolific strike force of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez that the Mexicans will need to contain in Pretoria. Playing in midfield will be that man Maxi, who'd settle for any winner on Sunday rather than a repeat of his 2006 wonder goal.

"I'll be happy if I can just tap it in," he said Friday. "What happened in that game is history now. The important thing is that the team wins and progresses."

The two teams have played each other 25 times, and the Mexicans have only won four.

But Mexico, so shaky to start qualifying before recovering to play well, turned it on when it counted in South Africa, beating 2006 runner-up France 2-0.

Argentina, capable of scoring goals from all over the field, is expecting Javier Aguirre's team to be solid on defense and not take too many risks.

"Aguirre is a very intelligent coach," Maxi said Friday. "I don't think they'll come out attacking us right away. They'll almost certainly wait to hit us on the counter."