Both Germany and England will fancy their chances in this tie, making it nearly impossible to pick a winner. But not completely.
Two sides exist to judge the teams: recent history and potential. From the recent history, Germany have performed better than England and retain many players from their Euro 2008 Final team, as well as a core from the one that reached the semi-finals of World Cup 2006. England, on the other hand, have even more remnants from the team that failed to even make Euro 2008 and a great proportion of the side that slumped to Portugal in 2006.
But from the potential side of things, one fact shouts clearer than any other: Germany have already been beaten in this tournament. Their shock loss to Serbia confirmed that tough European opposition can intimidate them.
For England, the mental boost given by being unbeaten, may prove a significant advantage. While the performances have been extremely mixed and unpolished, England have slid into the knockout rounds without the taste of defeat.
A key battle on the pitch will be Rooney versus Germany’s Arne Friedrich. Friedrich, who plays for now-relegated Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin, is the weak link at the back. His partner, Mertesacker, is far more accomplished and their full-backs highly adept at covering (though Boateng is currently a doubt). Rooney has the ability, like no other England player, to really take the defender on and Friedrich is just the sort of player to feel the nerves should Rooney find himself one-on-one.
England aren’t without their own faults – a worrying lack of goals, inventiveness and concentration mean that this test against Germany will be at least twice as difficult as the one posed by USA. There certainly is the ability in the team to find that extra level but there is no more time to find it, it must be done immediately. Joachim Low has assembled some of the sharpest youngsters in the game, and if England don’t fire on all cylinders, Germany will overpower them… but England will find that something extra just in time.
To counteract the lethal Podolski-Klose-Ozil front 3, Capello has an extremely on-form Terry, with Ledley King back to fitness at exactly the right moment, and with two of the most accomplished full-backs in the game, Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole, to run down the flanks. In midfield, Gareth Barry will marshal the tricky Schweinsteiger, and in the battle of the goalkeepers, keep one thing in mind: Neuer has been beaten but James, after being preferred to Green, has not.
Things are set for the best game of the World Cup so far and England have the smallest of edges in it. Surely, now the heat is really on, Wayne Rooney will find his way to opening his account at the World Cup, too.