Germany coach Joachim Low admitted he is relishing the prospect of facing old enemies England in Bloemfontein on Sunday with a FIFA World Cup™ quarter-final place at stake. "The Round of 16 game [against England] will be a class encounter, we are looking forward to it," said Loew.
Germany made sure of their place in the next round when midfielder Mesut Ozil's second-half strike gave them a 1-0 win over Ghana at Soccer City on Wednesday and top spot in Group D.
German Football Federation (DFB) president Theo Zwanziger said the national team had faced huge pressure as Germany have never been knocked out of the group stage at a FIFA World Cup. With those schackles now off, Zwanziger said he expects a more free-flowing performance against England.
"England will be a big hurdle, but it will be a classic," said Zwanziger, who admitted Germany had been stunned by their 1-0 loss to Serbia, which had put a question mark over their qualification. "This team has long had a hard time. I had the feeling that we were missing some self-confidence," he said. "Ghana were not a top team, but we have achieved our minimum goal, so now I think we will see an improved performance."
England will be a big hurdle, but it will be a classic.
In 31 games between the two European powers, Germany have 10 wins, England have 15 with six draws. Few English fans will need reminding it was Germany who were beaten 4-2 at Wembley when captain Bobby Moore lifted the 1966 FIFA World Cup on home soil.
But Germany have held the upper hand at major tournaments since, winning the nail-biting penalty shoot-out in Turin to win the 1990 FIFA World Cup semi-final on their way to the title. And it was England defender Gareth Southgate's missed penalty at Wembley which saw Germany win the UEFA EURO 96 semi-final before the Germans won the final with current team manager Oliver Bierhoff scoring the winning goal.
The current crop of Germany's rising stars are eager to take on Fabio Capello's side and they showed nerves of steel as Ozil's strike sealed the 1-0 win over Ghana. The 21-year-old said he was fired up to hit the back of the net after wasting a first-half opportunity to beat Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson.
"I could have already made it 1-0 in the first-half, so I was a bit annoyed with myself," said Ozil. "I was disappointed, but I knew that I would score a goal. I was glad I had a second chance. We knew that it will be very difficult against Ghana, but we fought until the end."
Low said he never doubted Ozil's precocious talent. "I told him in the half-time break - 'you've still got a goal in you'," he said. "This was an incredibly intense game and not many things worked out for us. But we have now reached the next stage."