Franz Beckenbauer has stoked up the atmosphere around England's World Cup last-16 game against Germany tomorrow by claiming that his country will win the tie on penalties as they did 20 years ago when he was manager of West Germany at the 1990 World Cup.
The 64-year-old, who won the World Cup as a player in 1974 and as a manager 16 years later, said that he was sorry for describing the England team as "kick and rush". However, he said that he believed the German team would win on penalties. "For the fans I hope for excitement," he said, "a draw, 1-1 or 2-2 and then penalty kicks. And then Germany wins. Sorry."
Beckenbauer added that he regretted his comments after England's first game against the USA in a column he wrote for a South African newspaper. He said: "I apologise because I like England and I like English football. Maybe it was a reaction because I was disappointed [with England's performances] and maybe in a bad mood.
"Before the World Cup I was convinced England would play a major role in the tournament and maybe win the title. They have a great team and a great coach – Fabio Capello is one of the most experienced coaches – and after their first two games I was so disappointed. In other words, I apologise and I look forward to the game on Sunday."
England are expected to be unchanged for tomorrow's game in Bloemfontein with Matthew Upson retaining his place at centre-back ahead of Jamie Carragher, who was suspended against Slovenia. Ledley King, substituted at half-time of the USA game, is now fit again having originally looked as if he would play no further part in the tournament. Capello is loath to start with King because a potential breakdown reduces his capacity to make changes.
The England goalkeeper David James has hinted that he might take a penalty ahead of some of the outfield players if any shoot-out went beyond the first five into sudden death. James said that there were some out-field players who were "less inclined" to take a spot-kick than him. "I have to understand the preparations for the penalty-taker," he said. "Whoever the keeper is has to be ready. If the situation occurred, there would be certain players who would rather not take penalties. I'm not naming names."
Joe Cole said last night that he would be prepared to be one of the five penalty-takers. He said: "I've never taken one professionally. When I was at West Ham we had Paolo Di Canio who always took them. At Chelsea it's Frank [Lampard] and with England it was [David] Beckham. So I've never taken one. That's not to say I wouldn't. You have to be more of a man and step up and take one. But I don't think it will be a surprise who the first five would be. You look at [Gareth] Barry, Lampard, Gerrard and [Wayne] Rooney. If he then looks at me, I'd say 'Yes'."