The clash between arch-rivals Germany and England in the Round of 16 at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ rates as one of the glamour fixtures in world football. On the eve of Sunday afternoon’s showdown in Bloemfontein, FIFA.com spoke exclusively to Germany striker Lukas Podolski. "We have no reason to fear them,” declared the 25-year-old, who insists "our goal has to be the quarter-finals."
After beating Ghana and reaching the last 16, what’s the mood like in the Germany camp?
It's very good. Obviously, we were under a certain amount of pressure before the last match. We knew a defeat would mean we were out. That wouldn’t exactly have been great, especially as no German team has ever failed to survive the group stage, so it made winning all the more important. Now we’re looking forward to the knockout games, which is what makes the FIFA World Cup the event it is.
Yours is the youngest Germany team at a FIFA World Cup for 76 years. How would you assess the team’s progress in the first three matches?
Overall, we’ve played some very good football. There was more pressure against Ghana, and we didn’t look as convincing in attack as we did against Australia or in the second half against Serbia. But we’ve definitely come on as a team, and we have a number of very good young players, which has to be a good thing. What’s happened to Italy and France shows us that age and experience are no guarantee of success. Looking ahead to future tournaments, I reckon we’ll have a very strong team indeed.
What are you expecting in Sunday’s meeting with England?
It would be a terrible mistake to underestimate them just because they had a few problems in their group. They may well raise their game for the knockout matches. They may well be saying: ‘Our tournament starts for real now’. So we need to be very cautious. We’ll focus completely on them as we prepare over the next few days. We have no need to be in awe, and we certainly have no reason to fear them. We respect them of course, but we’re not afraid.
Might England’s style of play suit Germany?
I don’t know. We have the last 16, the quarter-finals and the semi-finals coming up, so you can’t be saying ‘We’ll play for a draw’, or ‘A two-goal win will do us’. Every team knows they have to take the initiative, they have to play positively, so it’s a completely different situation compared to the group games.
Past meetings between Germany and England have always been hard-fought and dramatic. What are your memories of previous games at major championships?
They come up often enough on TV, but I don’t honestly remember too much about them. It's obviously a massive fixture, but I think you’ve got to block that out. Our goal has to be the quarter-finals.
Who are England’s danger men?
We’ll be studying videos of their recent games, we’ll analyse their strengths and weaknesses, and we’ll prepare accordingly. Obviously you’ve got to be wary of Wayne Rooney up front, and they have Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in midfield. These are good players, and we’ll need to be on our guard.
You’re only 25, but you already have 76 caps and rate as one of the more experienced members of the squad. Do the younger players look to you for advice?
I’m always happy to answer questions from the younger players. This is my fourth major tournament, so I do have a few tips to pass on. Overall, we’re a good young team, there’s a great atmosphere in the dressing room, and we all help each other.
What’s your impression of the FIFA World Cup so far?
The stadiums and the atmosphere are terrific. It's obviously a shame South Africa are out, and I hope that doesn’t dampen the mood too much. There have been good crowds in for all our matches, and it’s been a lot of fun. Our team base is great too. We hope to be staying here for a while yet.
How are you occupying the time between training, treatment, media appointments and the matches?
I spend a lot of time surfing the internet, keeping in touch with my family and also the fans via my Facebook page. I always try and write something or put up photos I’ve taken at the stadiums or elsewhere. And at the start of the World Cup, I launched a new personal web page, which I try and update regularly.