Dortmund (Germany) (AFP) – World champions Germany host England in a prestige friendly in Dortmund on Wednesday with both coaches primed to give youth its head for one of football’s great rivalries.
But that is where the similarities end for Joachim Loew and Gareth Southgate, who is in charge for the first time as England’s permanent manager.
Southgate takes over with England at their lowest ebb in recent memory and with expectations back home rock-bottom.
Loew, who has been at the helm since 2006, needs only to fine-tune for the defence of their crown at next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Loew is set to give a debut to forward Timo Werner, 21, a rising star in German football, while goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer has been ruled out with a calf injury.
Germany are also without the Dortmund duo of winger Marco Reus and attacking midfielder Mario Goetze, the former with a hamstring injury while Goetze is recovering from a metabolism disorder.
There is also no place for Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng, the central defender who is regaining fitness after shoulder surgery.
Germany and England’s records at major tournaments may be very different — Iceland sent England packing, humiliated — at Euro 2016 and the Germans were disappointed to “only” go as far as the semi-finals.
But Germany are chasing a first win over their old rivals on home soil since 1987 and need no reminding of the 5-1 mauling their team took in Munich in 2001, when Michael Owen hit a hat-trick.
But Southgate is particularly light in the forward department in the 2017 vintage, missing the injured Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge and dropping skipper Wayne Rooney.
In his young squad he included for the first time James Ward-Prowse, captain of England’s under-21 team, along with 23-year-old Southampton team-mate Nathan Redmond. Southgate also recalled striker Jermain Defoe, returning to the squad at 34.
Defoe though is the exception and Southgate and Loew will both look to blood youngsters before World Cup qualifiers on Sunday, when Germany play Azerbaijan away in Baku and England host Lithuania.
– No romance –
Both countries look nailed-on to reach Russia, but England have consistently disappointed once it really matters.
“If we want to reach our ambitions and goals we have to play these teams and beat them,” said Ward-Prowse on Monday.
This will be Southgate’s fifth game in charge of England, but his first since being named as permanent manager in November.
The 46-year-old oversaw wins over Malta and Scotland, plus draws with Slovenia and Spain, as caretaker coach following Sam Allardyce’s departure after just one game following newspaper revelations.
Southgate, a former defender/midfielder for his country, is attempting to alter England’s mindset.
“I was in a team that made a semi-final (at Euro 96) and that has happened once since 1990; twice since 1966,” said Southgate.
“That’s my job, to analyse what hasn’t been right and then show the lads a pathway.
“I think we need to be pretty brutal about the way we look at it. I’m not romantic about it. I’m just focused on how we win.”
Danny Rose (knee ligaments), Jordan Henderson (bruised foot), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Kane (ankle) and Sturridge (hip) are all missing with injury.
When England and Germany last met, a year ago, Germany raced into a 2-0 lead with goals by Toni Kroos and Mario Gomez.
Kane, Jamie Vardy and Eric Dier scored to seal England’s comeback.
The friendly will see forward Lukas Podolski, who retired from international football last year, make his 130th and final appearance for Germany.
“From an emotional point of view Wednesday’s game is a chance to say goodbye to Lukas Podolski,” said striker Thomas Mueller.
“We’re playing at home and it’ll be something special for Lukas.”