Penalties? We're ready this time, says Defoe

Striker will start again alongside Rooney – and hopes Capello's spot-kick regime will pay off
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The Independent Online

Jermain Defoe, Fabio Capello's match-winner against Slovenia, said last night that England can overcome Germany on Sunday if they rid themselves of their age-old inferiority complex about their old rivals – including penalty shoot-outs.

Defoe, who is expected to start again in an unchanged line-up in the last-16 knockout game, said the defeats of the past to Germany belonged to history. "We need to forget about previous matches over the years and just focus on this game. It's a different game, different players," Defoe said. "I can understand that people remember losing on penalties to the Germans but it's a different time now."

As for the prospect of a penalty shoot-out, Defoe said he was "100 per cent" ready to take one if called upon and had been practising with the rest of the squad. He said: "If this makes sense, it's a nice pressure because in your mind you know that if you score it means so much to everyone at home and your family and it helps the team achieve something special. You've got to be confident.

"We practise it at the end of every session. The manager gets the goalkeepers in and you've got Jamo [David James] standing there screaming 'Come on, are you boys up for it?' It's always good, from the training camp in Austria [last month], all the lads have been taking penalties.

"All the lads have been quite good. Obviously when you take them every day you get quite confident. We all gather round though and you do feel the pressure because you've got all the squad standing there. If you miss you get a little bit of banter."

The German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who hopes to follow in a long tradition of victorious German goalkeepers, said yesterday he has confidence going into Sunday's match. "If it comes to a penalty shoot-out I believe in my strengths," Neuer said. He has been coached by Andreas Kopke, the German goalkeeper who saved Gareth Southgate's penalty in the semi-final of Euro '96.

Capello and his staff expect Wayne Rooney to be fit. Though he took a kick on the same right ankle against Slovenia on Wednesday that he sprained against Bayern Munich for Manchester United in March, the injuries do not appear to be linked.

Matthew Upson is expected to keep his place ahead of Jamie Carragher in the centre of England's defence. Capello has taken encouragement from Upson's performance against Slovenia, including his 90th-minute block on Zlatko Dedic. The West Ham player seems to have done enough to retain his place ahead of Carragher, who has served his suspension.

The Germans have a major injury worry of their own, with Bastian Schweinsteiger – their best holding midfielder – a doubt for the game in Bloemfontein with a hamstring injury. The prognosis for Schweinsteiger was slightly improved yesterday.

The pre-match tension was cranked up yesterday when German's most famous football son, Franz Beckenbauer, aimed another barb at England, declaring that Capello's players looked "tired" and "worn out" after the rigours of the Premier League season. "The Englishmen looked tired," Beckenbauer said. "There's a reason for it: Premier League stars play far more games than their Bundesliga counterparts, including two national cup competitions. Hence they're often burned out at World Cups or European Championships."

Defoe hinted at a frostiness between him and his Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, who criticised his striker towards the end of last season when the striker's form deserted him following his return from a hamstring injury.

Asked if Redknapp's criticism was fair, Defoe said: "I don't think it was, to be honest, because I think the Chelsea game I played [in which he scored a penalty in a 2-1 win] was probably my best game all season. I thought my movement was good and I felt sharp. I picked up an injury and that put me back a bit. But I got myself fit again and got back in the team and just tried my best really. I worked hard for the team."

Redknapp has not contacted Defoe to congratulate him, but the player, who did get a text from Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, said: "I have played with Harry almost all my career and he has always been fantastic with me. I am sure he will be in touch soon."

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