GERMANY VS ENGLAND
GERMAN icon Franz Beckenbauer has lit the touchpaper ahead of Sunday’s clash with England by branding Fabio Capello’s team “stupid” and “burnt out”.
Meetings between the two old foes scarcely need any extra spice, but Beckenbauer has provided it anyway by making his second batch of derogatory remarks about England.
Earlier in the tournament Der Kaiser ruffled English feathers by criticising their style, accusing them of adopting “kick and rush” tactics.
His latest comments are only likely to reignite one of football’s most bitter rivalries just days before the hotly anticipated second round contest in Bloemfontein.
“A game like this should be a semi-final, not a last-16 game,” said Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup with West Germany as a captain in 1974 and coach in 1990.
“Stupidly, the English have slipped up a little by finishing second in their group.”
Beckenbauer, who still acts as an international representative for the German football association, believes his countrymen are in better condition.
“The English look a little tired,” he added. “There is a good reason for that: the Premier League players have to play far more games than their Bundesliga colleagues, including two national cup competitions.
“Therefore, when it comes to a World Cup or a European Championships, they are burnt out. Our players, on the other hand, seem to be in a physically better condition.
“Of course we respect them, but we certainly don’t fear them. England’s first two appearances at the World Cup were paltry, but they improved against Slovenia.”
England hero Jermain Defoe, scorer of the goal against Slovenia that booked a last-16 place, rejected Beckenbauer’s suggestion that the squad are jaded.
“I don’t feel tired,” said the Tottenham striker. “The Premier League is one of toughest to play in. There are lots of games, particularly for the lads playing in Europe and there’s the cup competitions.
“If you look after your body and prepare right there shouldn’t be a problem. The preparation is spot on for every game.”
Although England’s finest hour came beating West Germany to win the 1966 World Cup, they have also suffered some of their most painful defeats against their old rivals.
And Defoe admitted some of the squad were ruing missing out on top spot in Group C, which would have meant playing Ghana instead.
“It would have been nice to have faced Ghana but, to win a major tournament, you’re going to have to beat the best,” he said. “We’ll just approach it like any other game.”