England renews rivalry with Germany

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/g/germanyenglandfootball_ap.jpg' class='caption'> England versus Germany at Wembley is a matchup that rekindles memories of great games of the past, from the 1966 World Cup final to the semifinal match of

Updated: August 22, 2007 16:40 IST
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England versus Germany at Wembley is a matchup that rekindles memories of great games of the past, from the 1966 World Cup final to the semifinal match of Euro '96.

It's a shame many of the big stars will be missing this one when the two teams take the field at the rebuilt 90,000 capacity stadium for Wednesday's friendly.

Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Owen Hargreaves won't be in the lineup for England, while Germany will be without Michael Ballack, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose.

David Beckham should play some part in the game as the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder overcomes his lingering ankle problem while Michael Owen is just returning to fitness and may only play one half at best.

England coach Steve McClaren said, "I certainly think it was worth him flying over. The fact David was willing to make the trip speaks for itself.

"(Beckham) trained this morning and looked very good. He's back in the squad because of his performances. Michael Owen is a very big player for us. We would like to give him some minutes on the field tomorrow."

But McClaren and Germany coach Joachim Loew are frustrated they won't have their first-choice lineups for what is traditionally a full-blooded confrontation.

"I have been involved with England for six years now and I don't think there's been any occasion where we've sat down and named the 11 players we wanted to," said McClaren, who announced he had also lost Everton striker Andrew Johnson with a knee injury.

"What we've got tomorrow night is a very important game, there are no friendlies for England. It's at Wembley, 90,000 people, 8 million watching on TV. That's some friendly."

But McClaren said the match against Germany would be preparation for the 2008 European Championship qualifying games against Israel and Russia.

England has four home games out of five in Group E and, despite the loss of key players through injury, wants to see which of the backup players can force their way into the starting lineup for those matches.

"It's preparation for Israel and Russia and, with all the injuries that we've got and could have in three weeks when we play Israel, who knows?" McClaren said. "This is an opportunity for the players to show what they can do."

Germany holds a five point advantage at the top of Group D while England is fourth in its qualifying group and has to make up ground on Croatia, Israel and Russia,

Loew is unhappy to have so many players absent, even for a friendly. "We are going to be missing experience, routine and leadership," said Loew. "Those missing are not easy to replace. It would have been good if we had the best possible team for this game, but we are not going to complain. It's a joy to be playing in this stadium."

England-Germany games always have an edge and no one will be taking it easy in this game even if it is a friendly ahead of European Championship qualifiers next month.

The players who come into this match, like England defender Micah Richards, and Germany winger David Odonkor, have the chance to make a big impression.

Although nothing is at stake apart from pride, Wednesday's game will have a special feeling because it is the first between the two sides to be played at the new stadium.

Germany was the last visitor to play in the old Wembley in October 2000 and won 1-0 in a qualifying game for the 2002 World Cup.

England coach Kevin Keegan quit only minutes after the final whistle and his replacement, Sven-Goran Eriksson, guided the team to a spectacular 5-1 victory in Munich a year later, the last time the two teams met.

England's 4-2 extra time victory over West Germany at Wembley in 1966 is one of soccer's most memorable matches. It was followed four years later by the Germans' 3-2 victory at the World Cup in Mexico after England tossed away a 2-0 lead.

West Germany also won 3-1 at Wembley in a European Championship quarterfinal in 1972 and edged England in a penalty shootout after a thrilling 1-1 draw in the semifinal of the 1990 World Cup in Italy. After unification,

Germany achieved the same outcome at Euro '96 at Wembley before going on to win its third European title.

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