Fabio Capello's England camp have reacted with private amusement to Franz Beckenbauer's damning assessment of their World Cup progress so far and have let it be known that they think the Germans are scared of them.
Beckenbauer's remarks in a first-person column in the South African newspaper The Times on Monday, in which he said that England's draw against the United States on Saturday demonstrated they played "a game gone backwards into the bad old times of kick and rush", were the first blow in the lead-up to a potential second-round encounter between the countries.
Capello and his assistants have read the comments and have come to the conclusion that the famous former German international footballer and manager must have had another agenda. One source said: "We have seen the [words from Beckenbauer]. We are not surprised. We know why: because they are scared by us. There isn't any other reason to say something like this. He is a gentleman to be honest so if he said this I think it was because they are scared of us because we can crush each other."
The German midfielder Thomas Müller was eager to play down Germany's World Cup hopes yesterday, possibly aware that expectations have been raised since their demolition of Australia.
"The international press are heaping praise on us," said the 20-year-old. "When you play well you are everyone's darling, but if we lose 2-0 to Serbia they will tear us apart, so we need to keep our feet on the ground. All we have done is get off to a good start. We haven't really won anything yet and certainly not qualified for the next phase.
"We are not the fantastic team which everyone makes us out to be. But we have every reason to look forward to the Serbia game with quiet confidence. It will be a different type of game as they desperately need a win.
"We won't win every game 4-0, but we have nothing to fear. We have taken confidence from the game against Australia and we have no need to fear anyone, but it will not be plain sailing from now on."
Müller wears the No 13 shirt synonymous with namesake and Germany legend Gerd but comparisons are unfair, he insists. "I really have no time to think about things or to ponder my development. I am living that progress every day – it is all around me," said Müller.Reuse content