Football: Cole inspires schoolboys to senior style

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The Independent Online
England 2

Osman 30, Armstrong 65

Germany 1

Bansch 36

Attendance: 39,641

You are around 15 years old. You are wearing an England shirt that is not the one you wore on the last trip to Majorca, but the real thing. And you're playing at Wembley in the same week in which your seniors beat Italy. There was a lot for England's schoolboys to live up to against Germany yesterday, but, inspired by the youthful class of Joe Cole, a West Ham protege, they did so satisfyingly well.

Their annual meeting with Germany usually brings the youth of England face-to-face with the reality of growing up. Germany's last visit to Wembley in 1995 had cost England a 4-2 defeat while last year England lost 3-0 in Berlin. Predictably, in an atmosphere of high-pitched English patriotism and rugged German defiance, this was nothing less than another version of so many previous clashes between old rivals at all levels.

Cole set the tone with a dipping free-kick in the early minutes which dropped a fraction too late but sent a clear message to the German defence. They closed in on him more quickly after that but without much success. Stefan Burgermeier chased him everywhere across the broad pitch but was no closer to pinning him down than Arsenal had been when they tried to beat the Hammers to his signature.

England marginally had the better of a bruising midfield battle, offering Cole and Leon Mike plenty of possession.

A nicely drifted free-kick from Stephen Warnock after half an hour was accepted by Leon Osman with equal accuracy. His glancing header was delightfully raised beyond the reach of Matthias Kufner and into the top far corner. Of course, Germany reacted quickly and effectively. Pressing forward more purposefully than before, they built a succession of dangerous attacks before Erwin Bradasch blasted a 25-yard shot that hit Rhys Evans in the chest and bounced out to Florian Bansch, who tapped in an equaliser.

England confronted their situation without recourse to the hammered long ball that at this level used to be the accepted reaction to adversity. Chris McReady and Mark Maley stood up well when the Germans brought on a highly promising Eintracht Frankfurt player, Christian Dombrowski, to attack from midfield.

Mass substitutions by Germany at around the hour hinted at desperation, while Cole, in particular, began to look at home. Michael Standing's confidence in midfield also grew, allowing England to build solidly in their own half. It was his imaginative chip after 65 minutes that allowed Ian Armstrong to find some space in the penalty area before beating Kufner cleverly with a shot tight inside the far post.

Cole's standing grew and grew. After one run of some 30 yards he clipped a post, but the effect was to demoralise Germany, who finished the match defending desperately and in the end had to suffer an on-the-field lecture by their coach, while his counterpart, John Owens, revelled in the performance of his side in their last game under his control.

England (4-4-2): Evans (Chelsea); Hanson (Middlesbrough), McReady (Crewe Alexandra), Malley (Sunderland), O'Brien (Liverpool); Warnock (Liverpool), Standing (Aston Villa), Osman (Everton), Armstrong (Liverpool); Cole (West Ham), Mike (Manchester City). Subs: Bingham (Blackpool) for Evans, Knight (Preston North End) for O'Brien, Flitcroft (Bolton Wanderers) for Standing, Burke (Doncaster Rovers) for Armstrong, Taylor (Tranmere Rovers) for Mike.

Germany (4-3-3): Kufner (Bayern Munich); Yarayan (Freiburg), Kirchoff (VfB Leipzig), Bradasch (Alsbach), Burgermeier (Bayern Munich); Schlicke (Nuremberg), Bansch (Post Sud Regensburg), Bonig (Bayern Munich); Jungnickel (Dynamo Dresden), Woidtke (Borussia Dortmund), Schaaff (Waldhof Mannheim). Subs: Seiler (VfL Bochum) for Burgermeier, Adrion (VfB Stuttgart) for Bansch, Domrowski (Eintracht Frankfurt) for Woidtke, Placzek (Borussia Dortmund) for Domrowski, Rau (Eintracht Braunschweig) for Schaaff.

Referee: R Dodge (Bedfordshire).

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