Eriksson's team 'will provide a tougher challenge'

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The Independent Football

Dietmar Hamann believes that England are a much better team than the one which crumbled 1-0 against Germany in September.

Rudi Völler's men have been in pole position in World Cup qualifying Group Nine since that Saturday when Hamann's winning goal prompted the resignation of the England coach, Kevin Keegan.

However, the Liverpool midfielder and Germany are all too aware that Sven Goran Eriksson has engineered an English renaissance, steering them to five victories in six games.

"We should not talk about our last game against England a year ago because they are much stronger than then," he said. "We can only prove our quality by winning against them and that is going to be hard. England are a top team and they are the perfect opponent for us to prove ourselves."

Völler, delighted after all of his players came through yesterday morning's training session unscathed, picked out Hamann and his former Anfield team-mate Christian Ziege as potential match-winners.

"I hope that if I play Hamann he will do as well as he has been doing lately," Völler said. "[And] Ziege played a very good Euro 2000 and had a good game against [David] Beckham. I think he could be one of our key players."

Like Hamann, Völler is not underestimating Eriksson's side, despite their recent 2-0 friendly defeat by Holland, but believes that English passion could be their undoing. "They are very aware of the importance of this game," he said. "They will do everything to win and we might be able to use their risks to our advantage."

Ziege identified the midfield as the key battleground. "We have the most fear for their midfield, of course, and don't know who to play against Beckham yet," he said.