English need credible performance to back up confidence

For a group of players that were highly fortunate to make it out of their “easy” group it’s admirable to hear how confident England are ahead of their second round World Cup clash with Germany.

First/second/third (delete as applicable) choice goalkeeper David James believes that England are the better team:

…I think we’re a better team than Germany. We played them in Berlin (in 2008) and beat them 2-1 in a game which we should have won more comfortably. They’re a strong side, ranked sixth in the world, but we are not fearful of them at all.

Joe Cole goes one step further and says England can win the 2010 World Cup:

You always think you can do it, but this time I think it’s our time and we can do it if the country believes.

Yes, England were much improved against Slovenia (a nation with a population equivalent to the West Midlands) and deserved to win but they were still one brilliant Matthew Upson block away from elimination. And the victory should not overshadow the fundamental problems that still exist: Wayne Rooney is struggling, Gareth Barry has looked a yard off the pace and Frank Lampard is still not delivering in an England shirt. Slovenia might let you away with those shortcomings but the Germans will not.

I’m sure England’s players – now that they are free of the Group C quagmire – are looking at the names on the German team sheet and feel confident in the knowledge that won’t be coming up against a Ronaldo, Maicon, Iniesta or Messi.

But the lack of name stars is what makes this German team so solid. In fact this is a classic German side in the making. The old guard are still there – Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Klose, Podolski, Mertesacker and Freidrich. But a professional crop of hungry young players – led by Mesut Ozil of Werder Bremen and largely unknown to those who don’t follow the Bundesliga – should provide a challenge a class above what Capello’s side have faced so far.

Demeaning Germany’s quality (as some commentators have) because they lost to Serbia is to put too much emphasis on the result. They had enough chances to win that game comfortably with 10 men and, under pressure, beat a good Ghana side to top the group.

England can talk about winning the World Cup when they put in a credible performance. As of yet they have not. If they overcome Germany then it will be time to take them seriously.

Prediction: England 1 Germany 2

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