Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Don’t pay penalty this time, England

One word has dominated the build-up to England’s potentially epic World Cup encounter with Germany.

No, not Beckenbauer, though he has tried, with his cutting comments about “kick and rush” and “stupid” England. Even the Kaiser, though, loses out to “penalties.”

It’s a word that causes every English fan to break out in a cold sweat, especially when Germany are the opposition.

Despite all the hype relating to spot-kicks ahead of tomorrow’s last 16 clash in Bloemfontein, England have actually only lost TWICE to Germany that way.

Mind you, they were memorable affairs, the first in the 1990 World Cup semi-final (the one where Gazza cried more tears than all the X Factor winners put together) and the second in the 1996 European Championship semi-final. Football was supposed to come home that year. Instead it flew off to Germany.

For the record England won their preceding match in Euro 96 on penalties against Spain, though two years later went out at the World Cup to Argentina when they were put on the spot.

And Portugal, managed by Luis Felipe Scolari, were better from 12 yards at Euro 2004 and in the last World Cup. Scared already at the thought of tomorrow’s match going all the way, can you imagine how England supporters would be feeling now if Big Phil was in charge of Germany! They wouldn’t even watch if the scores were level after extra-time.

Me? I reckon England are due a victory from the spot, but they should not take the chance.

That’s why Fabio Capello’s side must be positive from the start against Joachim Low’s young side.

United States forward Clint Dempsey accused England of playing with fear earlier in the tournament and he had a point. That must not happen this time.

The German class of 2010 does not have the ability or knowhow of some of their predecessors, but they have the same confidence.

Attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil has been their star performer so far and will look to run the show.

This is where Gareth Barry could come into his own.

England’s defenders will have to be lively too, because Miroslav Klose, returning from suspension, will be fresh and will fancy testing John Terry and co. He may not get much change out of the Chelsea captain though.

You have to hand it to Terry. Before the Slovenian game he was made to look like an angry little boy put in his place after screaming at daddy Capello.

During the Slovenian game he was England’s big man, producing an excellent display at the back. He’ll need to be even better tomorrow. And probably will be.

Obviously England’s other influential figures must shine too, with Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney on that list.

I’ve said all tournament that Rooney must deliver, otherwise he’ll end the World Cup with a reputation for bottling it on the grandest stage of all.

If Rooney clicks with Steven Gerrard, and I have a feeling he will, then the Germans had better watch out.

Losing to Germany would not be a disgrace, but going out in the last 16 would be for an English side who harboured hopes of the semi-finals at the very least. With the right mental attitude, England have enough to win in normal time.

And save themselves more shoot-out heartache.

Belfast Telegraph


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