Franz Beckenbauer has stored up potential for a stormy clash between England and Germany by declaring that Fabio Capello's side have headed "backwards into the bad old days of kick and rush" on the evidence of Saturday's opening match against the United States and he has also suggested that there is very little that can be done to improve things.
Beckenbauer, an ambassador for the German game, said that England's failings were a product of the Premier League being packed with too many foreign players. "The English are being punished for the fact that there are very few English players in the Premier League clubs as they use better foreign players from all over the world," he said.
From an individual who only this month praised Capello's firm style of management, Beckenbauer's comments in a South African newspaper are eyecatching – given that England's overall display against a disciplined United States side was by no means calamitous. But while Beckenbauer has pointed the finger at the Premier League's use of foreign players, his own nation's far more impressive start to the tournament comes after them having had the advantage over England of working with the tournament's unpredictable adidas Jabulani ball for the past four months in the Bundesliga.
The ball, which is acknowledged as the most unpredictable ever used in a World Cup tournament, was made available to coaches in February and used in US Major League Soccer as well as eight continental European leagues, including Germany's – though not the Premier League because of its contractual obligations to Nike.
Jamie Carragher said yesterday that the England players were aware of the Germans' greater familiarity with the ball, which he believed did offer Joachim Low's side a material advantage heading into the tournament. "I can see the headlines [but] it gives them an advantage," Carragher said. "That is obvious. The ball is very different. Every training session we do we always start by passing 30 or 40 yards to each other just for that reason alone. I am sure it has helped them. It is an advantage of course."
The ball, which both Clint Dempsey and Frank Lampard claim deviated before Robert Green fumbled it here on Saturday evening, could not be used by England in the two home friendlies since February because of the international deal with Umbro and use of it has been limited to the intensive World Cup warm-up period, including the friendly against Japan in Graz. With only two training sessions before the fixture with Egypt in March, Fabio Capello and his staff did not consider the use of it worthwhile at that stage.
Capello's staff were given the chance to learn more about the ball at a workshop run by adidas during the international coaches' conference at Sun City in February. "We underlined the requirement to get used to it because it is a different ball and a different technology," adidas spokesman, Thomas von Schaik, said yesterday. "We underlined this point. At the same time we also supplied all the federations with the balls. The reason we chose February was because following the launch in December there had not been any internationals. That meant that the national teams would have the first opportunity to have access to the ball at the same time."
England may play Germany in Bloemfontein on 26 June if they fail to win Group C and Germany top Group D and it will be Beckenbauer's comments which will offer most incentive to Capello and his side if they do. There is no history of bad blood between Capello and Beckenbaeur, though the German's dislike of the number of foreign players in the Premier League is an issue he has aired before. He said England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008 was because of the number of foreign players in the domestic league.
Wayne Rooney missed training yesterday with a knock to his ankle sustained against the US but it is no cause for concern ahead of Friday's match against Algeria in Cape Town.
Ashley Cole was also absent but only on the basis that he has regularly needed an extra day to recover from playing after breaking his ankle in February. Ledley King underwent a scan on his abductor muscle strained in the fourth minute of the US game. He is unlikely to play any further part in tournament.
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