England will be Germany’s ‘easiest opponents’ of the tournament so far according to their former midfielder, Stefan Effenberg.
And the ex-Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach star’s optimism is matched by the German press ahead of tonight’s last-16 Euro 2020 tie at Wembley, who see only one outcome.
‘I think England will be our easiest opponents so far,’ Effenberg, who earned 35 German caps, told Sport1.
‘In the group, we had world champions France, European champions Portugal and Hungary as incredibly difficult opponents. We survived it.’ added the famously outspoken ex-player.
Stefan Effenberg (seen chasing Stuart McCall of Scotland at Euro 92) believes England will be Germany’s easiest opponents in the tournament so far, when the sides meet at Wembley
German fans fear England will be celebrating tonight after the last-16 showdown at Wembley
While Germany put on a scintillating attacking show against Portugal, winning the game 4-2, they struggled against Hungary, eventually securing a 2-2 draw, which sealed second place in Group F and the date with England at Wembley in the last 16.
However, the weight of history, which includes three decisive tournament defeats for England since the World Cup triumph of 1966, gives the Germans an inner confidence.
Stefan Effenberg may be more confident than many German fans
And such is their superiority, the German press does not even see England as one of the country’s great football rivals.
‘Germany tends to have rivalries with those teams which are in the same weight category: Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, France … but we’ve not lost a decisive tournament game against England since 1966,’ Christoph Biermann, the chief football reporter at German magazine 11Freunde, told DW.com.
Undoubtedly, some Germans are already looking beyond the Wembley blockbuster.
‘I think Germany fans will be expecting victory – that’s the German tradition, to do it when it matters the most!’ said Uli Kohler, Sky’s correspondent in Germany, which has celebrated four World Cup triumphs.
Recent disasters like elimination from the 2018 World Cup have rocked German fans’ faith
However, Germany’s sensational elimination in the group phase of the 2018 World Cup, when they lost to Mexico and South Korea, has rocked the faith of the average fan, Michael Gabriel, who runs the German Fan Embassy at Euro 2020, told Sportsmail.
Then there was the 6-0 thrashing by Spain in the Nations League last year and an embarrassing 2-1 home defeat to North Macedonia in March.
‘Expecting to win was the approach of the German fans but it is different for Euro 2020,’ insisted Gabriel, who saw Germany prevail over England in the semi-final of Euro 96 at Wembley.
The day football did not come home… Paul Gascoigne looks on as Germany won the penalty shootout at Wembley in the semi-final of Euro 96 after the game finished 1-1 after extra time
‘Everyone knows there is quality in this German team, but it is not as sure as it was that they can show it on the pitch. There is a difference to the years before,’ added Gabriel, who ranks the Euro 96 tournament in England as one of his best football experiences.
Unlike most Germans, Gabriel is not confident that his country will win a penalty shootout at Wembley tonight, an anxiety he puts down to seeing his team, Eintracht Frankfurt, eliminated from the Europa League semi-final on penalties by Chelsea in 2019
But he is in the minority. Freelance journalist and German football fan, Felix Tamsut, told Sportsmail: ‘If it goes to penalties people believe it is Germany’s game. It is not even questioned. That’s just how it is.’
However, Tamsut believes the Germans are worried, and England will never have a better chance to defeat their ‘below par’ rivals.
‘Fans are not very confident. If you read the newspapers here you would get the impression that is 100 per cent certain Germany are going to go through.
German fans cannot understand why Jadon Sancho is not included in the England line-up
‘But if you talk to the average fan here, you would get a very different impression because Germany has been everything but good recently. People know the team has had its problems and it is there for the taking for England.
‘I don’t think anybody here will be surprised if Germany get knocked out tonight.’
While German fans are confident in their team’s attacking abilities, with Kai Havertz seen as the key man, they are concerned about England’s pace and simply cannot understand why the Borussia Dortmund flier, Jadon Sancho, does not get a look in.
‘Germany can be confident in their attack,’ said Tamsut. ‘But if Joachim Low plays his normal high line it will create spaces for the likes of Raheem Sterling to exploit.
‘And given his performances in the Bundesliga, everyone is asking why such a cracking player does not get a chance? As as far as German fans are concerned he should be in the starting line up.’