England tilt will be 'absolute classic': German coach
While Franz Beckenbauer thinks England has gone backward under coach Fabio Capello, Germany's coaching staff has a high opinion of its traditional rival.
Assistant coach Hansi Flick said England plays "modern football" under Capello and has gained in tactical sense, making it the favourite in Sunday's second-round match in Bloemfontein over Germany's young team.
Writing in a South African newspaper after England's opening 1-1 draw with the United States, Beckenbauer argued that England had not progressed under the Italian coach, partly because of a lack of domestic talent in the Premier League.
"What I saw of the English against the USA had very little to do with football. It looked to me as if the English have gone backwards into the bad old days of kick and rush," said Beckenbauer, one of only two men to win the World Cup as both player and coach.
Asked Thursday if he agreed with Beckenbauer's assessment, Flick gave a flat "no."
"For me England is a team that is playing very modern football under Capello and that has gained tactically. It is very experienced and can beat any team," Flick said, a day after Germany's 1-0 win over Ghana that set up Sunday's knockout match against England.
In his latest column in the German newspaper Bild, Beckenbauer said Germany appeared to be the fresher team and that England often came to major tournaments burned out after the long club season.
After losing the 1966 World Cup final to England, Germany won a semifinal penalty shootout en route to winning the last of its three titles in 1990 in Italy. Germany won another semifinal shootout in 1996, before winning the European championship in England for its last major title.
"We'll try to retain this tradition," Flick said.
England struggled to reach the second round and finished behind the United States in its group.
"The first games did not show the full potential of England, they were under pressure to advance. Now they will show their real face.
"England is a favourite for the title, it has many stars and we saw how strong it was in Berlin," Flick said.
Flick was referring to the last friendly between the two nations that ended in a 2-1 England win in November 2008. Since England's famous 5-1 victory in World Cup qualifying in Munich in 2001, the two rivals have split two friendlies, each winning away from home.
Flick called the upcoming match an "absolute classic."
Germany coach Joachim Loew, speaking after Wednesday's game against Ghana, said he expected England to raise its game.
"Sometimes a team gets into rhythm only during a tournament," Loew said. "They have excellent players: Lampard, Gerrard or Rooney. They are very dangerous and have a lot of experience.
"Wayne Rooney can always explode. He has scored an incredible number of goals in the Premier League. This is going to be a huge job for our defence. Rooney is very difficult to stop."
Germany central defender Arne Friedrich also identified Rooney as the biggest threat, predicting the Manchester United star would rise to the occasion after a quiet tournament so far.
"He will show what he can do," Friedrich said.
Germany's defence has allowed only one goal in three games but has looked wobbly at time and Friedrich acknowledged the problem.
"We can't allow so many openings as we did against Ghana," he said.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said he expected to be briefed for a possible penalty shootout, "although we hope it doesn't come to that."