Keegan views new team spirit as key to victory

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The Independent Football

Kevin Keegan has declared that England will approach their opening World Cup qualifier infused with confidence from their Euro 2000 victory against Germany and the recent morale-boosting draw in France.

Kevin Keegan has declared that England will approach their opening World Cup qualifier infused with confidence from their Euro 2000 victory against Germany and the recent morale-boosting draw in France.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, he refused to even contemplate the possibility of England losing the qualifying game at Wembley against the Germans next month but insisted: "Our destiny does not depend only on that game."

Keegan, who believes Darren Anderton is unlikely to be fit for that match, will again consider the possibility of playing David Beckham in central midfield - although he stressed: "I will look at it, but it depends who turns up fit."

The England coach nevertheless appreciates Germany have reorganised since their own European Championship shambles, in which they lost every game. He paid tribute to the work done since the summer by Erich Ribbeck's temporary replacement as head coach, Rudi Völler, while admitting that a change in leadership can sometimes work wonders. Under Völler -- who will give way to the Bayer Leverkusen coach Christoph Daum at the end of the current club season -- Germany have not only comfortably defeated Spain in a friendly but also won their opening qualifying match against Greece last month.

But Keegan believes the psychological impact of England's 1-0 victory in Charleroi cannot be underestimated. He also feels the recent friendly in Paris has not only shown the English side how to play, but has also given them a "new team spirit".

"Nothing will be decided at Wembley," he said. "Germany have to concentrate on only one game after already having played one match against Greece. We, however, have to concentrate on two games, because four days later we have another match in Finland.

"But at least we are starting with a home game, and thankfully Charleroi has shown that we can still beat the Germans. The team spirit was never any problem, but the France match was how I want to play. We should have played that way in Euro 2000. But that is a thing of the past. Charleroi has gone. Germany have a new coach, and we have a new team spirit."

Keegan has previously admitted that if England were to lose both of their opening qualifying games against Germany and Finland then his own position would be in doubt. However when asked yesterday about the potential consequences for him if England lost to Germany he insisted: "I do not go as far as that, to think about what if. I always try to give my players positive thoughts."

While stressing that he had the highest regard for Ribbeck, Keegan added: "I like Rudi Völler as a person. He was a great player and so far he has done a fantastic job.

"I saw the friendly win against Spain. It was not good to watch but not because it was a bad game but because Spain were lacking real fitness because their season had not started. Völler will do a good job and perhaps one day he will get the job properly. New coaches can make a big difference."

Keegan concluded that "against Germany it will be a fantastic game. The football played may not always have been the best, but there have been no nasty things between the two teams -- always honesty and commitment on the pitch."

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