AFC Bournemouth legend Steve Fletcher hopes England can dismantle the “machine” of Germany as they look to make further progress in the European Championship.
Fletcher is backing the Three Lions to win Tuesday’s last 16 clash but is not in the school which thinks the current German squad is weaker than when they were crowned champions of Europe in 2014.
Writing in his latest Euro 2020 column, Fletcher said Die Mannschaft should never be underestimated and that Gareth Southgate’s team would need be at their best if they are to reach the quarter-finals.
Another chapter in the long footballing rivalry will be written at Wembley after England finished top of Group D and the Germans came second in Group F following an absorbing four-way battle with France, Portugal and Hungary.
Cherries’ appearance record holder Fletcher, whose grandfather Jack Howe was capped by England in the 1940s, will be penning his opinions for afcb.co.uk throughout the tournament.
Growing up, I remember watching West Germany lose to Italy and Argentina in the World Cup finals in 1982 and 1986 but my earliest memory of England playing them was at Italia ‘90 when I was 17 (England 1990 squad main picture).
Gary Lineker scored late on to take it to extra-time and Gazza was in tears after getting a booking which would have ruled him out of the final.
Then, after it had gone to penalties, Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle both missed and we went out.
When they beat us again after Gareth Southgate had missed in a penalty shootout in the semi-finals at Euro ’96, I started to realise they had a hold over us.
Alan Shearer scored our goal and then Gazza failed to connect with his cross by a matter of inches right at the death. If he’d scored, we would have played Czech Republic in the final.
After that game, I was thinking ‘are we ever going to beat them?’
When we played them in the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, Frank Lampard’s shot was about two yards over the line but the goal wasn’t given and we went on to lose.
I’m sure it goes for most of the population of England but every time we come up against them, you think they are going to knock us out on penalties!
I know people are saying it’s a weakened Germany team this time and they are not as good as in the past.
How many times in previous tournaments has a so-called weakened Germany team reached the final or done really well?
I read somewhere recently that in 15 European Championships, they have won it three times, been runners-up three times and been in two semi-finals. That’s not a bad record for a weak team!
Germany are like a machine and always find a way to win. It’s ingrained in them. They get to finals, they win major tournaments and are always there or thereabouts.
Whether you like them or not, you have to take your hat off to them.
They are a powerful footballing nation and you can never underestimate them.
I don’t buy into this train of thought that now is a good time to play them.
It’s not as if the Germany teams of the past have pulverised us, they haven’t. We could easily have gone through but they have always found a way to beat us.
We’ve come so close, we’ve lost two penalty shootouts and probably should have beaten them, certainly in 1996.
We have to produce.
It didn’t matter whether we played France, Portugal or Germany, we simply have to deliver. They are all strong and quality nations.
I think we’ve got as good a chance as we’ve ever had in the past but I don’t think this is our best chance because we aren’t firing on all cylinders and I know you could say the same for Germany.
If we had banged in seven goals and won all three group games playing well, I would have said we were favourites but we haven’t so we aren’t.
We’ve still got plenty more in the tank and haven’t been up to speed yet. But we are definitely going to need to bring our A-game on Tuesday.
I just hope and pray it’s our time to be on the winning end of one of these encounters.
I’m predicting a 2-1 win to England… and not on penalties!