Oliver Bierhoff: Our fans expect us to win finals. Simple as that
Ahead of his country's visit to Wembley, the German legend explains to Glenn Moore how pressure breeds success
Germany were the last team to win at the old Wembley and the first to beat England at the new Wembley, but more relevant than that is the fact they were the last ones to win a tournament at Wembley.
Germany's triumph at Euro'96 is not only a reminder to England of what might have been, but to Joachim Löw's current team of what ought to be. England were beaten by Germany in the semi-finals in 1996. It was a high-water mark. Eight subsequent tournaments have produced only four quarter-finals and a failure even to qualify for Euro 2008.
Germany also look back on 1996 with longing, though to English eyes there is no need for recrimination. They have subsequently reached the finals of the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2008, and the semi-finals of the 1998, 2006 and 2010 World Cups and Euro 2012. It is a fine record, but not good enough. Seventeen years of hurt, not 47, but painful nonetheless.
Didi Hamann, whose thought-provoking views on the contrast between English and German attitudes towards the team unit are featured left, once suggested England's post-1966 baggage was light compared to the history every German team carries into a tournament.
"Every time the tournament comes around, the German people expect us to win it," he said in late 2004. Even the glow of reaching the final two years earlier had not lasted long. "When we came back, the reception was really fantastic. But it faded."
Oliver Bierhoff, who scored the winning goals in 1996 and is now the German team manager (not a coaching role), told The Independent on Sunday: "There are a lot of critics and expectations are very high. In Germany they don't talk any more about how you play, or how well you play, or how far you get in a tournament. They only talk about winning the title, which is perhaps also the same with the other big nations. The pressure from the country helps us always to be motivated and have the last kick.
"Yes, it's pressure. But that's a little bit our German mentality. We are never happy with what we have achieved. It's always about the next step. It pushes us to do more."
Owen Hargreaves, the former England international who spent the best years of his professional career in Germany, said: "As much as football is physical it is mental as well. For whatever reason, some players who have less ability can dig deeper than others who have more talent, that is their personal characteristic. Germany, with less talented players, is able to achieve more [than others, including England]. We have to think why is that?"
Hodgson might be able to do so, suggested Bierhoff. "Every tournament you think that England will be one of the favourites. But in the last decade or so, I didn't feel this strong team spirit which normally you would imagine with English teams. There are a lot of excellent players, but they showed their quality more in their clubs. Why? Roy Hodgson can bring this together. It's about having the feeling that when a team needs to react, they can react. How you put certain players together, how they play. He has a lot of experience."
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