Pride on the line: England host Germany in WCup warm-up
Two teams with battered pride face each other at Wembley Stadium today as England host Germany for a World Cup audition in the Nations League.
England are already certain to finish bottom of Group A3 and drop out of the top tier of the Nations League after losing to Italy on Friday.
Germany can no longer reach the Final Four tournament following their defeat at home to Hungary.
That loss brought an end to Hansi Flick’s unbeaten run as Germany coach since taking over from Joachim Löw in July last year and also shone a harsh light on his record so far.
Germany defeated Italy 5-2 in their previous match in June, but it was the team’s only win from their last six games. They did not manage to avoid conceding in any of those matches.
Adding to Germany’s worry is the sense that Bayern Munich’s loss of form in the Bundesliga has spread to the national team, where the likes of Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry in particular failed to spark against Hungary. Gnabry was hauled off at halftime. Bayern captain Manuel Neuer and midfielder Leon Goretzka missed the 1-0 loss in Leipzig due to coronavirus infections.
Old doubts about the team’s capability are resurfacing two months before the World Cup begins in Qatar, even if Germany sports director Oliver Bierhoff insists that the aim is still to win the tournament.
“The goal stays,” Bierhoff said after the loss to Hungary. “OK, after this game, what can you say? But we start the (World Cup) tournament at zero.”
Bierhoff sees today’s game as a chance of redemption, an opportunity to forget the loss to Hungary and atone for the defeat to England on Germany’s previous visit to Wembley – a 2-0 loss in the round of 16 of the European Championship. That ended Löw’s 15-year tenure of the team.
“We want to make amends, to find our game and gain confidence,” Bierhoff said. “We have to believe more in ourselves. And a game like that against Hungary doesn’t help. We have to make sure that we stand up to the English and implement the things that the coach demands.”
England’s manager Gareth Southgate is under even more pressure after five games without a win – the team’s worst run in eight years. England have not scored a goal from open play in 495 minutes.
Southgate was asked if criticism of recent performances had led to him doubting his ability.
“I’m fortunate that I’m now, sadly, in my 50s. I have been in football for 30 years, and I have gone in one guise or another to 12 tournaments, working with these chaps, scouting — this will be my seventh as player or a coach, so I have seen pretty much everything,” Southgate said