Carragher: Germany remind me of Liverpool – they never give up
It was probably the biggest compliment Jamie Carragher could pay the Germany team: he compared them to Liverpool, for their unshakeable belief that, whoever they are playing and whatever the odds, they believe that they can win games through sheer force of will.
The young Germany team's 4-0 demolition of Australia on Sunday night was the most impressive start to the tournament of any team so far and there were plenty, including Carragher, who watched in the England hotel and were impressed. For the English there is that old agonising question: how have the Germans managed to do it again? Another tournament, another team that looks capable of out-performing expectations.
It is a pertinent question given that if England are careless enough to finish second in Group C then they could find themselves playing Germany, surely now favourites to win Group D, in the first knock-out round. Meanwhile, Franz Beckenbauer has given his own assessment on the England performance against the United States and the conclusion was depressing: "a game gone backwards into the bad old times of kick and rush".
As this is a man who has made a career out of grinding English noses in it – be it the World Cup finals of 1970 and 1990 or even Germany's triumphant bid for the 2006 tournament – it would be wise not to take it too much to heart but it is worth examining the question: how is it that the Germans make international football look so easy?
First of all there is the conspiracy theory. That Germany's players have been able to get used to the controversial World Cup matchball – the Adidas Jabulani – since December in the Bundesliga. They were simply taking advantage of the fact that Adidas supplies the matchball in their top domestic league while the Premier League has a contract with Nike.
For Carragher, though, the difference runs deeper than that and it goes to the root of England's inferiority complex when it comes to big tournaments. "I don't know what their mindset is but what they may have is a belief of always being there at the end [of a tournament]," he said. "Maybe that continues. It is similar to what we have at Liverpool where you are known for getting late goals no matter who is on the pitch.
"You just believe you are going to do it. Maybe it is something like that. Because [England] have not done very well in tournaments, maybe that is something [that counts against us]. But if you look at our players and the players we have got I am still pretty confident we can do well in this tournament.
"If you look at Germany and the names come up, you wouldn't say they roll off the tongue. But then when you see them in action and how they played against Australia, it was very impressive. The manager has done a great job. He [Joachim Löw] was No 2 to [Jurgen] Klinsmann and had a bit of an impact at the last World Cup. They have two or three players from the Under-21 team who beat us in the European championship final last year."
The Under-21 team that beat their England counterparts 4-0 in the final of the European Championships last summer has given the current Germany World Cup squad Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Marko Marin and the goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. England's only graduate to the senior team from that defeat in Malmo is James Milner.
The German class of 2009 have been produced by Matthias Sammer, the former international who is the sporting director of his country's football federation, in response to a fear among the country's football clubs that there were too few German players coming through the system 10 years ago. The major club sides invested heavily in their youth development with an accent on producing well-rounded individuals as well as good players.
The liberalising of German immigration laws around the same time has also meant that many foreign families living in Germany have been able to gain citizenship that would otherwise have been unobtainable. None more so than Ozil, the son of a Turkish family, who was still playing football on the street in his hometown of Gelsenkirchen four years ago, the city in which England lost to Portugal at the last World Cup finals.
It was Ozil above all who caught Carragher's eye in the game against Australia. "Ozil was outstanding," he said. "Right from the first two touches you could tell he had a bit of class with his left foot. You could tell straight away he is a talented player."
Carragher is one of English football's success stories having come through the now defunct national football centre at Lilleshall and then the Under-21s before reaching the senior team. By way of a reminder of what Robert Green will have to go through, Carragher went back to his career low when at Anfield aged 20 he scored two own goals in one game against Manchester United in 1999.
If there is one thing that the England squad – the second-oldest at the tournament after Italy – can lay claim to which their German counterparts cannot then it is the benefit of experience. They have been there and nearly done it on countless occasions. Capello has picked a team that is older but wiser. His accent has always been on age over experience, nowhere more so than in the omission of Theo Walcott.
"I know people look at Premiership footballers and see the money, the lifestyle, but it has been a journey to get to that point," Carragher said. "There have been that many times when you have been knocked on the floor and you have to get back up. There is a lot of players like that. I went to Lilleshall when I was 14. I wasn't better than the lads then. But maybe my mentality helped me whereas some of them are playing non-league now.
"You do get knocked down and you have to get yourself back up. That is why Robert Green is playing for England. There are a lot of things that people will not have seen at youth team, in the reserves so to get to this top level you have to show mental strength."
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