Masters Football stars yearn to revive England-Germany rivalry

A strong England is necessary if the once-proud rivalry is to be rekindled on the international stage, as Nigel Chin finds out...

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They once boasted a great rivalry on the international stage that could barely be matched.

Germany vs England always proved to be a spectacle, especially when both great footballing nations meet in the major competitions. There was the 1966 World Cup Final and 1990 World Cup semi-final, while of course the 1996 European Championships semi-final comes to mind as well.

Yet in recent years, one can’t help but feel the rivalry has mellowed. Despite the Three Lions triumphing 3-2 in a recent friendly against Die Mannschaft, there is no doubting that the Germans are the far superior team right now.

The quality is the Premier League, but that probably means our national team has suffered for it.

- Darren Anderton

Joachim Low’s men have constantly made the latter stages in major tournaments and are the current world champions; on the other hand, the Englishmen have constantly disappointed. It was only apt that, during the press conference for this year’s Master Asia Football match between the nation’s legends, it was joked about that England finally have a hope of winning something.

Former England international Darren Anderton, who himself was part of the 1996 Euro squad, stated explicably: “Well the [national] team at the moment is not great, is it?”

Anderton went on to add: “We are always looking for reasons [behind the failures of the national team]. To me, I think the Premier League is a great league, the foreigners, the quality is there, but that probably means our national team has suffered for it as there isn't such a big pool of players to pick from.”

The presence of so many foreigners in the Premier League is hurting the Three Lions

“The Premier League is not so good for the English national team.”

Apart from a smaller pool of players, Anderton also feels that youngsters who manage to break through into the Premier League first teams are thrown into the deep end on the international level far too soon. That, as a result, makes England look poor as the players themselves are not ready for the international stage as yet.

That’s where the Bundesliga has got it right, according to Karl-Heinz Riedle, who is part of the Germany Masters team.

Maybe the problem is the really young players, they don’t have spaces because there are so many foreigners in the Premier League but it's always difficult.

- Karl-Heinze Riedle

The former Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool striker believes that the Bundesliga has got the balance right after undergoing a structural change in the late 1990s and it has resulted in both the domestic league and national team thriving tremendously.

“The Bundesliga did it right in the last ten years. We struggled in the end of '90s, so we changed all the academy stuff and build our own players,” Riedle said. “Now we are seeing the fruition of Germany’s future.

“The Bundesliga has the places for young talent from Germany, so they can experience in the league; it's not like in the Premier League – 30 players at the very top level, so there's a lack of place for young players to play and gain experience.”

The result of that is an obvious one. When a generation of English stars retired, such as David Beckham, Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand – to name a few – retired, the Three Lions struggled to replace them. For the Germans however, their transition has been seamless.

A haven for youngsters – the Bundesliga has raised plenty of Germany's stalwarts

“It was Philip Lahm who retired last year and (Per) Mertesacker and (Bastian) Schweinsteiger are finished,” Riedle pointed out. “There will be a little bit of change but also a big, big chance for new players.

“But we have top young players in Germany so, for this, I'm not really worried that we cannot play at the same level. It won’t be straightaway and it will take some time for sure.

“I know Joachim Low will bring this group of players to a different level and I think we have a good chance to hold this level or even do better in the future with some experienced players and some new young talented players.”

Still, Riedle asserted that the English Premier League is definitely the best in Europe, although he questioned whether it is worth it at the expense of a failing national team. According to him, “the best would be to have a good league and a top national team”.

“I think Germany they don't have to hide behind the Premier League now, because you could see Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund doing well in the Champions League compared to English teams,” Riedle added.

A strong England is needed again if the rivalry with Germany is to be taken seriously

Riedle also expressed his hope for England to rise once more again, simply because having a competitive rivalry between the Germans and English is “great for football”, and seeing England in such an unfortunate state is quite a disappointment to him.

“To play against England, for Germany, it's always a big thing to play against each other in these tournaments,” Riedle said.

“It's really sad to see because I was watching on television and at stadiums and I thought maybe this year England can maybe make it into the final. Nearly in every tournament, I will ask: ‘Why is this happening? Why are they always struggling?’

“Maybe the problem is the really young players, they don’t have spaces because there are so many foreigners in the Premier League but it's always difficult.

“On the other side the Premier League is very attractive but you have a problem with the lack of young players in the national team.

“That’s got to change.”