England’s Martin Peters scores the second goal in the World Cup quarter final against West Germany at Leon, Mexico on June 14, 1970. England lost: 3-2
When Landon Donovan scored his last minute goal against Algeria, he didn't merely put the U.S. through to the Round of 16, he inadvertently set up one of sports great rivalries.
Fueled by two World Wars, and the adolescent jingoistic inventiveness of the British tabloids, no game looms larger in the English psyche than England vs. Germany.
In truth, the German fans don't feel quite as passionate. Arguably, Holland is Germany's natural rival. Imagine the Red Sox obsessed with beating the Yankees, while the Yankees are more bothered about bragging rights over the Mets. But England vs Germany does have a knack for producing great drama whenever the two sides meet.
In 1966 England beat West Germany 4-2 to win its only World Cup. Geoff Hurst's controversial goal, which put England ahead 3-2, was ruled by a Soviet linesman as good when many thought it bounced back into play. In the decades since the so called "ghost goal" has been the subject of as many documentaries, re-creations and conspiracy theories as the Kennedy assassination.
Recent history hasn't served the English so well. In 1970 England lost a heartbreaker to Germany in the quarter finals. In 1990 they went out to the Germans in the semi-finals, losing on penalties. And it was penalties that also cost the English dearly in the 1996 European Championship semi-finals. It's a record of futility that led England player turned pundit Garry Lineker to quip, "Football is a simple game; twenty-two men chase a ball for ninety minutes and in the end the Germans always win."
But will the Germans win in Bloemfontein? Depends which England team turns up. The confident team that cruised through the qualifiers and looked like a legitimate Cup contender, or the tight, nervous squad that has been one of World Cup 2010's bigger disappointments.
Against Slovenia, there were signs England was finding rhythm and confidence. To win they'll need Wayne Rooney at his brilliant best, which he hasn't been so far, supported by clutch performances from England's other superstars: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and John Terry at the back.
After a relatively fallow period by its mighty standards, Germany looks like a team on the up, with a dangerous mixture of terrific young talent and experience. They are always well organized and tactically savvy. But several players are reportedly carrying injuries. And as they showed in the group matches by losing to Serbia, Germany is far from unbeatable.
I'm picking England to finally live up to the hype and win this one—unless the game goes to penalties.
Please, please, please soccer gods, don't do that to us again!