A week after they played out a 1-1 draw in the group stage, Germany and England meet again at the Malmö New Stadium with the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship title at stake.
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A week after drawing 1-1 in Group B, England and Germany meet again with the UEFA European Under-21 Championship title at stake.
It is a classic tie to decide a compelling tournament that began a fortnight ago in Halmstad and came to life here at the Malmö New Stadium with Sweden's breathtaking 5-1 rout of Belarus. Though the hosts' involvement was ended by England on Friday, the prospect of two great rivals vying for the trophy guarantees an enthralling climax. Not that England coach Stuart Pearce, a study in focus, was prepared to discuss the rich footballing history between these nations.
"What's gone before is irrelevant," Pearce said at a joint press conference with his counterpart Horst Hrubesch. "The only history we want to create is tomorrow night." The Germany coach was more expansive when it came to last Monday's draw, but like Pearce believed it would have no bearing on the final. "England had some advantage over us at set-pieces, but I don't think that will have any influence," he said. "No team is favourite in a final. I'm convinced we're going to win, but in the end it's 50-50."
If Hrubesch was delighted by Germany's third clean sheet in their 1-0 semi-final victory over Italy, Pearce endured a traumatic afternoon in Gothenburg. England threw away a 3-0 lead against Sweden before winning on penalties. Having survived that scare he is intent on finishing the job. "As a group we feel as though we've had no success. The only way to have any is to win tomorrow. That's the be-all and end-all. Success isn't coming away as a gallant loser."
With senior coaches Joachim Löw and Fabio Capello both expected to attend, success will also be measured by who makes the grade in the years ahead. A telling contribution here could make a lasting impression. The two countries also contested the 1982 final with England prevailing over two legs before recording their only other U21 triumph two years later. Germany, surprisingly, have never won this competition, and there is no better time as they bid to complete a hat-trick of titles following wins at U17 and U19 levels in the last ten months. "The players have battled through the tournament and go into the game with great expectations," Hrubesch said.
Hrubesch is likely to bring in striker Sandro Wagner for the suspended Ashkan Dejagah while captain Sami Khedira should return from injury. Marko Marin, however, did not train on Sunday because of an ankle problem. Pearce's hands are tied by suspension to goalkeeper Joe Hart and strikers Gabriel Agbonlahor and Fraizer Campbell. With attacking options limited, Theo Walcott may feature in an unaccustomed central role, either as a lone striker or flanked by James Milner and Adam Johnson in Pearce's preferred 4-3-3 formation. Pearce refused to say whether Joe Lewis or Scott Loach would keep goal, each having played a half against Germany in Halmstad.
Jack Rodwell's goal in that match is the only one Germany have conceded. "We've got a very strong team with exceptional qualities, especially individually," Hrubesch said. "We've played some very good football at times and this might be one of the strongest sides ever to represent Germany at this level." They can prove it by becoming the first to land the title. Their old rivals, though, will have plenty to say about that.