Arrogant Germans? Not a bit of it. Whether it is a calculated public relations pitch or a genuinely honest approach, the German camp is full of praise for England – who are being billed as the vastly experienced class act taking on their own Young Boys.
Or as the eloquent coach Joachim Löw put it at lunchtime yesterday: "It's youthful lightness against international class. England remain England. They can fight, they can run, they are mentally strong and incredibly experienced. The English have a never-say-die attitude and the great fight and commitment they bring to the fore. Despite the high tempo, they have a superb technical level as well."
Instead of writing his team off completely, however, he did manage to add: "Germany have never approached any of these games with fear. Great respect yes, but we won't go into hiding or put our heads in the sand. While we have a young team, we will be able to hold our own."
On their own admission, the Germans have performed to potential only once in their three group games. That was the opener, in which Australia were brushed aside 4-0. In the next game, Serbia were able to achieve an unexpected victory after the Bayern Munich striker Miroslav Klose was sent off. He will return tomorrow, but he was missed in the 1-0 win over Ghana that secured top position in the group.
Löw admitted: "I was very critical with our team. Particularly as far as our strikers are concerned and our attacking moves. The final third, we just weren't good enough in terms of running patterns and precision passing. And let's not talk about finishing. I want my attackers to be more focused, not lose any balls and allow the opponents to counter-attack. This is something the English will be able to exploit. Give Rooney and Gerrard lots of space and they cannot be stopped."
The captain, Philipp Lahm, whose job it will be to prevent the link-up play between that pair, echoed his master's voice and even claimed that it was invaluable experience not to have won the group as easily as many were expecting. "Everyone knows this is a developing team," he said.
"That is why it is important we didn't win clearly and passed through some difficult moments. It was good for us to suffer for some parts of the game."
Lahm believes that Bastian Schweinsteiger will be fit but his coach was a lot less sure. Speaking of the player he calls "the heart of the team" and the left-back, Jerome Boateng, who is joining Manchester City, Löw said : "There is a major question mark over both players. Neither will train today due to these muscle problems; it would be too much of a risk. We need players who are 100 per cent fit, who can give their all. Ninety per cent is not sufficient."
Yesterday, when the players went to a game park before training, Lahm was inevitably asked if they had encountered three lions. "Yes," he replied, "but it was a bit of a petting zoo, so we had them in our hands. On Sunday, the treatment we give to these lions will definitely be more aggressive."
The mood overall was warm and tolerant. But please don't mention the war, British media and supporters were requested. "It is high time to forget these things," Löw said. "This is 2010 with a unified Europe and reverting to these old war themes is absolutely out of place."Reuse content