In this weekend’s tastiest World Cup fixture, long time rivals Germany and England will meet in a head on battle with dramatic implications and a quarter final birth on the line. Will the English get their chance to conquer their demons during a dramatic penalty shootout, or will the young and organized Germans overrun the tired looking English midfield and back line?

Not one for elaborate predictions, here are 5 key players to pay special attention to during this Sunday’s clash between the participants of the 1966 Final.

  • Mesut Özil, Germany– Born in Germany to Turkish immigrant’s, Özil is the creative midfielder that Germany will need on top form to unlock an England back line that has conceded only 1 goal so far this tournament. The Werder Bremen play-maker has a sweet left foot and possesses the ability to take control of a game from midfield and provide good service for German forwards. Özil is no stranger to high profile games with England, during last summer’s U21 Euro final, he was voted man of the match in Germany’s 4-0 destruction of England by scoring one goal and providing 2 assists. Özil can and will score goals if the England back line give him too much space (see under his game winner v Ghana in the group stage). He’ll likely sit just behind striker Miroslav Klose and will look to feed the prolific German striker in hopes they’ll unlock England’s solid, yet at times shaky back line
  • Jerome Boateng or Holger Badstuber, Germany– German boss  Joachim Löw elected to make a change at left back for their encounter with Ghana earlier this week. It’ll be interesting to see if Löw sticks with Boateng or resorts back to the young Badstuber who had a few bad moments in Germany’s 0-1 loss to Serbia in the second round of group stage matches. England attacked with moderate success down the right side of midfield with James Milner in their crucial 1-0 win v Slovenia and I’m certain Fabio Capello will stick with Milner v Germany. The battle is sure to rage down England’s right side regardless of who Löw picks as England will look to use width to provide service to England’s strikers.
  • Wayne Rooney, England– miles away from the form that heard the striker’s name mentioned in “player of the year” sentences all those months ago, the versatile England play-maker and striker is slowly looking as if he’s ready to have a break through match during the World Cup before England bow out. The only question that remains is will he make his mark on this tournament before England are eliminated? Rooney must be at or close to his best in order for England to have a realistic chance at beating Germany on Sunday. He’s slowly improving each game, but questions abound on his true fitness levels after experiencing minor knocks and injuries during the last few months of Manchester United’s domestic campaign. We all know how dangerous Rooney can be when on form, which is why he’ll definitely be one to watch come Sunday.
  • James Milner, England– the previously mentioned Milner was a difference maker for England in their match v Slovenia. His on the ball skills, dribbling and crossing abilities ultimately led to England’s winning goal yet he proved dangerous throughout the rest of the match and gave Slovenia defenders trouble on and off all day. I believe Capello will have taken notice of Milner’s contributions and will hope to see the Italian pick him again for the highly anticipated knockout match on Sunday. Watch for Milner’s poise on the ball and his lulling of Germany’s full backs before his crosses into the box.
  • David James, England– since games can no longer end in a draw, the dreaded (or loved) penalty shootouts are now a distinct possibility, especially when teams are so evenly matched in the tournament’s later stages. Although I hope the game doesn’t have to end this way, both sides will have spent a productive amount of time practicing taking and stopping penalties in training this week. Since James has replaced Robert Green in England’s goal, he’s been nothing short of solid, yet slightly untested. England’s back four have been equally as impressive and have limited the number of clear cut chances on the England goal. One thing’s for sure, all eyes will be on both keepers should the game be forced to end in such a dramatic manner.

Feel free to leave a comment with your prediction or key players you’ll be watching on Sunday.