Munich, June 27 - I agree with Kaiser Franz. England were careless and didn't win their group and thus, they set up a matchup that is more fit for a semi-final. Regardless, this is what we have so let's break it down.
Why England will win: I find arguing for England the hard part. England has not played well at all in this tournament. They are the only team still alive in the tournament that had to change their goalkeeper. But yet they are here, and here's why they will win:
1. Experience: Despite the absence on the pitch of their talisman David Beckham and captain/lynch pin at the back Rio Ferdinand, this team is match-tested. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard are leaders in their own right. All play football at the highest level week in and week out. Sometimes 3 times a week! So what that there is internal strife? When the whistle blows, they can bring out the best. Especially Stevie G. He helped Liverpool come back from 3-0 down at halftime of a Champions League Final. If they can establish control of the middle early, it will frustrate their opponent.
2. Rooney has yet to start: The English have been harsh on Emile Heskey, but he's been able to produce. However, he doesn't distract the defense away from Wayne Rooney (maybe why Heskey gets so many chances). Fabio Capello finally put in Jermain Defoe and they scored early in their last group match against Slovenia. And there seemed to be more activity up front, there was even another goal but disallowed. But the effort was there, something that disappeared after their early goal against the US and stayed away against Algeria. If Rooney can get going, we all have seen his talent. Furthermore, this will open up space for Aaron Lennon and anyone else that Capello decides to play to create. Hopefully Joe Cole is able to come out and show his brilliance.
3. Pressure is 'off': There was so much on the backs of the English squad going into this World Cup. They didn't make the Euro 2008. They came in with controversy, both with the selection of the squad and off the pitch. And they could NOT lose to the U.S. in the opening match. They didn't, but the Hand of Clod didn't help matters. Well, now they are through. Sure, they'll be disappointed to lose to Germany, but there won't be the shame as losing to Slovenia or Algeria. They will play loose and focused as now they will play a respected opponent.
Why Germany will win: They only had one bad match, and did just enough against Ghana. After seeing what the Black Stars are capable of after they were clinical and efficient against the US, Jogi Löw's men were very lucky to get by. But, they too are here, and it's now time to recapture the 2006 magic:
1. Talented: As I've written throughout the tournament, they will win or lose with their young. The Serbia match was not surprising. Coming off a fairly easy match against Australia, Germany did not take the next match seriously. Evidence: Lukas Podolski's missed penalty. Miroslav Klose's careless fouls. However, they both have scored in this tournament. Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, Sami Khedira, and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer have played solid for their first World Cup. This group has won a championship, sure, as U-21s, but wins are wins. They've all shown that they are ready for this moment. The future is now.
2. Disciplined: Compared to the France and England football squads, FEMA looks like a well-oiled machine. Both teams seem to allow external factors to distract them. The players don't respect their coach and speak out against him through the media. Not Germany. After the loss to Serbia, the team was able to regroup and win. Loew is respected and he has trust in his captain Philipp Lahm. I believed without Michael Ballack this team would wilt under pressure. But Lahm has shown to be more than just a quiet leader. He's leading by example and controlling the action at the back. There's no one better at his position. And the team is responding.
3. Tournament tested: Loew, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Klose, Podolski, Per Mertesacker, Arne Friedrich were all part of the 2008 team that fought their way to the European final, only to lose by one goal. The system has been in place since 2004. This team has shown it can find those moments and make plays that win matches. Like the England squad, the German squad all play in their home country. The leagues are close in talent and competitiveness. The difference here is Germany has proven to rise in tournaments throughout their storied history and recently - 2002, 2006, 2008. We've been hearing "2010" for four years now, this team will make it happen.
I expect Germany to win this match in regulation, but if this match goes to a penalty shootout, I have my last point: Germany is 4-0 in World Cup shootouts. England is 0-3.