Going all the way
They might need extra-time or penalties, but Jamie Redknapp is convinced England will beat Germany.
Last Updated: 27/06/10 7:10am
I have said there was a massive overreaction to the way Germany started this tournament and I still stand by that.
They beat a poor Australia side, who had a man sent off, they slipped up against Serbia and although they won their last game - and Ghana are a tricky side - I didn't see anything to fear.
Yes, you would rather England had won their group and had a slightly easier game, but if you want to win the World Cup, you have to beat these sides sooner or later - and it might as well be sooner.
And if England can't get up for this one, then there is something very wrong. This is Germany, the old enemy, as it were. That has to bring something extra out of everyone and I really do expect us to go up a gear and raise our performance a level.
Against Slovenia, it was better. Much better. You have to accept that they weren't the toughest of opponents and to an extent they did suit us because they play a more Premier League-like style. That meant getting it forward quicker, playing for knockdowns and picking up second balls. That is what our players are used to, which was a help.
But there were also some big plusses from an English perspective. We kept a clean sheet and John Terry and Matthew Upson once again looked a decent defensive partnership, I thought Steven Gerrard was magnificent again and James Milner and Jermain Defoe came in and combined for the goal.
I would still prefer to see those same players used in a 4-5-1 but I think we're all going to have to accept now that it's 4-4-2 all the way; that's how Fabio Capello wants to do it.
And while we've all been clamouring for Joe Cole to start, Capello is the one that sees him in training every day, not us. Maybe Joe and Peter Crouch have been off the pace all week; Capello is the one that has to make those decisions.
That said, I don't think there is a decision to make against Germany and barring any accidents in training, that same XI will start in Bloemfontein. That would be my choice and I can't see any reason to change it.
Finally we have a number one goalkeeper in David James - who I think is perfect for a penalty shoot-out - the full-backs pick themselves and Terry and Upson have played together plenty of times now. I am a big Jamie Carragher fan but he got himself booked and banned and lost his place; that's how it is with England, especially in tournament football. Upson looked a little nervous to start with, as did England as a whole, but settled down well.
You can't change the three established midfielders and you have to say Milner did more than enough to get another go. He actually deserves a lot of credit and I actually thought we saw him become a man against Slovenia.
Imagine how he must have been feeling after the USA game; as a professional footballer the World Cup is the pinnacle of your dreams, all you work towards and then all of a sudden you're hauled off after half-an-hour? He must have wondered what the hell was going on. But once he put that ball in for Defoe's goal he seemed to grow in confidence and belief. A bit like England as a team, I guess.
I also liked what I saw from and heard about Capello. It's not so much the fact that he had a beer with the players, more his body language after the game; to see him hugging his players and smiling like that was different class. He is a manager that rules with an iron fist, but I don't always think that's the right way to go - especially with English footballers.
We don't mind getting a rollicking if we mess up and will accept it, but there has to be a flipside as well, a pat on the back, words of encouragement. You can't keep hammering players and to see him hugging them after the final whistle was different class. Maybe this week, being with them 24/7, he has learned that and maybe he has learned something new as a manager.
England certainly played with more freedom and I hope that is the case again on Sunday afternoon. Sometimes it helps when you know there are no second chances, it's do-or-die and as funny as it might sound I think our lads will feel less pressure in the knockout stages.
Don't get me wrong, I expect this to be a very cagey game and of course no-one wants to make that all-important mistake, but against Algeria they knew they could put it right, that's not the case here and I think it will move us up another notch.
But we have to keep the ball better. That is the one area where England really need to improve. That is why we made Algeria look so good, because they kept the ball and there is nothing worse, nothing more tiring as a player than chasing the ball around because invariably you give it away as soon as you get it again.
England did it a bit better against Slovenia, but these players can do it because they do it for their clubs - most of them in the Champions League. The margins are so fine when you get to the knockout stages of a World Cup that even something as basic as ball retention could be decisive.
I also think experience will play a big factor. Look down that England teamsheet and half-a-dozen of them have more than 50 caps, something Germany just don't have. This is not the Germany of old with some steady heads that have been there, seen it, done it; this is a young side that play with freedom, but also are not as used to big knockout games as ours.
And as I keep saying about our opponents, they will be looking down that England teamsheet and they will be nervous of coming up against such big-name players in such a big game. Anyone would be.
But it's never that simple. In Mesut Ozil England are up against one of the stars of the show so far. I think only Lionel Messi has impressed me more, he's been that good. I remember seeing him for Werder Bremen in the Uefa Cup final, telling my dad he should take a look at him, then getting a call back a few months later saying he'd done nothing! But he is a lovely player and one Gareth Barry will have to keep an eye on.
Ozil does drift deeper which can cause sides problems and he does love to thread balls through to Miroslav Klose, who is back and despite his poor form for Bayern Munich this year, a real worry when it comes to World Cups. If there is one concern about Terry and Upson it is they are not the most mobile and with Klose sniffing around and Lukas Podolski drifting in from the left, they will need to be on their game.
So will the Germans, though. I keep saying it, but sooner or later Wayne Rooney is going to spark into life and I do think that German defence is a little bit suspect down the middle. Ghana are no great shakes but got through on more than one occasion.
Also, we will have wide players up against both their full-backs which is something they have not had to contend with so far. And just how good is Bastian Schweinsteiger at the defensive side of things in central midfield? Even if he is fully fit?There are questions against both sides, both sides will be nervous, both sides have match-winners and both sides have plenty to fear - and that's without even mentioning the dreaded word... penalties!
England win - I really do think there is nothing to fear from this Germany side and I really do think we will see an even better England display. But at the same time there is so little to choose between the two sides that I like the draw at 11/5. I can see it being nervy of course and as always you'd think a moment of brilliance - and in Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney and Defoe we have players more than capable of that - or a blunder might settle it. But I can see this ending 1-1 and then well, it's extra-time where any winner is 12/1 it'll probably be down to penalties. That's where I think big Jamo will come in handy because I've played with and against him and he doesn't half fill that goal! Then look at Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Milner, Barry, they all take penalties for their clubs. And even with our record and Germany's, England on penalties at 10/1 has got to be worth a punt.
Steven Gerrard - One match-up I'm really looking forward is Gerrard against Philipp Lahm; the two captains and two of the best in the world. Lahm is probably the best full-back out there but he loves to get forward and Stevie is England's driving force. We're all quick to remember the players that disappointed when we don't play well as a team, but the captain has been excellent in every game. People think he is distant and dour just because he doesn't go round shouting but that couldn't be further from the truth. He is the one that gets on the ball, drives his side forward and he is a real inspiration - I wish I could've played in the same side as him, I really do.
To see Jamie's latest Red Hot Tips, click here