Football: Germany heed England threat

England's players attending a training session on March 25, 2016, in Berlin on the eve of the friendly football match against Germany.
England's players attending a training session on March 25, 2016, in Berlin on the eve of the friendly football match against Germany. PHOTO: AFP/ DPA

Loew impressed with rivals' strike force, as World Cup champs battle injuries, poor form

BERLIN • Germany host England at Berlin's imposing Olympic Stadium today, amid security concerns as both teams look to throw down a marker for Euro 2016.

After the Brussels bomb attacks last Tuesday, security personnel will be on high alert with a crowd of around 72,000 expected for the high-profile match between two of the favourites for June's European Championship.

Germany suffered a blow on Wednesday when Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger tore the ligament in his right knee.

He faces a race against time to be fit for the Euro 2016 Finals which start on June 10.

But Arsenal's attacking midfielder Mesut Oezil is fit again, after picking up a knock in training.

Germany's head coach Joachim Loew bared his teeth on Tuesday by throwing Wolfsburg striker Max Kruse out of the squad for the friendlies against England, and then four days later against Italy, for off-field indiscretions.

Both teams will experiment, especially England, who have several injuries, including captain and record scorer Wayne Rooney, who is sidelined with a knee injury.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart, who is recovering from a calf injury, has been included in the squad for the friendlies against Germany, then the Netherlands next Tuesday at Wembley.

Southampton defender Ryan Bertrand is out with an injury, but Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge and Arsenal midfielder Danny Welbeck both return after long absences.

Sturridge faces competition to start up front from Leicester's Jamie Vardy and Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane, and the Germans clearly respect their English rivals.

"I rate England as a good team, with a view to the European Championship, especially when you look at all the names they have," said Germany's Toni Kroos.

"The English have a few ideas and they are quick up front."

This will be the 34th time Germany have played England, with the Germans having won 12, drawn six and lost 15 times to the Three Lions.

The last time the teams met, in November 2013 at Wembley, a Per Mertesacker header sealed Germany's 1-0 win in London.

Since then, England manager Roy Hodgson has instilled a sense of realism and is grooming a group of talented young players.

Germany have failed to shine since winning the World Cup nearly two years ago, but are eager to find some form and Loew says the English are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

"England have improved in the last two or three years and have undergone a clear change," he said.

"They have brought in young players, they are very good in defence, concede few goals and have players who are quick to counter."

England's recent record includes a flawless 10 wins from their Euro 2016 qualifiers, while Germany put in a below-par qualifying campaign with defeats by Ireland and Poland, even as they still won their group.

Tottenham left-back Danny Rose and Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater could make their England debuts in Berlin on the back of stellar seasons for their clubs.

"I have been given a small chance here to show what I am capable of and it is up to me to take it," said Drinkwater.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2016, with the headline 'GERMANY HEED ENGLAND THREAT'. Print Edition | Subscribe