GERMANY WIN PHONEY WAR; but Pearce Aims to Win the Battle That Really Counts by Inspiring Young England to European Glory

Daily Mail (London), June 29, 2009 | Go to article overview

GERMANY WIN PHONEY WAR; but Pearce Aims to Win the Battle That Really Counts by Inspiring Young England to European Glory


Byline: MATT BARLOW reports from Malmo

ROUND ONE to Horst Hrubesch, who sold Stuart Pearce a dummy with a late costume change and punctured England's spirit of 1966 by opting to clothe his team in red.

'It is just what the players chose,' said Hrubesch, before breaking into a knowing grin. 'It's nothing psychological. I asked the players what colour and they chose red.'

Germany are nominally the home team for tonight's European Under 21 Championship final and have the choice of colours. Initially, they went for white, leaving England in red, just as they were 43 years ago at Wembley, when they beat West Germany to win the World Cup. Then they changed their minds. The England camp received a late call on Saturday night, informing t h e m o f t h e switch, sending the kitman into a frenzy as the team prepared to head south to Malmo from their base in Varberg.

The two managers faced the cameras yesterday, like boxers at the weigh-in. Pearce wore a face like thunder. His answers were curt, to say the least.

Can victory spark a wonderful British summer of sport, Stuart, with Andy Murray and the Ashes to follow? 'Strangely enough, I haven't had my eye on the tennis,' he growled.

What damage can Walcott do through the centre, Stuart? 'He's playing, is he?' Pearce snapped back. He has become irritated by what he perceives as a media obsession with Walcott.

In contrast, Hrubesch, in his black tracksuit and spiky blond glam-rock hairdo, was all smiles and casual confidence. 'You don't have to worry about penalties this time because it will be decided inside 90 minutes,' he chuckled.

What do you mean, Horst? Who wins in 90 minutes? 'Germany for sure,' beamed the Under 21 boss, a former striker who once wrote a best-selling book about fly fishing.

Pearce smouldered next to him, dodging questions about his personal past with the Germans, losing on penalties in the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1990 and the European Championship in 1996.

'My only concern is the match,' insisted Pearce. 'Games gone by, they have no relevance.'

Hrubesch, though, billed it as an 'absolute soccer classic' and England captain Mark Noble, as a West Ham fan turned player, has been raised on tales of Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. He passes the statue of the trio holding the Jules Rimet trophy each time he goes to Upton Park.

'When fans come to us and sing that we haven't won anything, we sing back about winning the World Cup,' said Noble. 'I was at a fans' evening three or four months ago and I was getting hammered by the older generation of fans telling me how great those players were.'

England were on the team bus after beating Sweden on penalties in the semi when they learned their opponents in the final would be Germany.

'Whenever you play Germany it is always a massive game,' said Noble. 'Everyone knows that. It's just the history we have. There's no doubt there's an extra little incentive because it's Germany. That's the way they think about us and the way we think about them. …

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