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England v Germany – Euro 96

As the nation prepares for a titanic battle with Germany this coming Wednesday, Terry Venables’ team must be confident they can overcome their great rivals. The stage is set, we now just wait in eager anticipation for the game to begin.

With the tournament heralding such monumental moments thus far, Paul Gascoigne will be needed once more to sprinkle that football magic across the Wembley pitch. The Germans arrive after a solid tournament run, to contest the Euro 96 hosts on their home turf. The only guarantee is that Skinner & Baddiel’s now iconic anthem (Three Lions On A Shirt), will drive this crowd wild as England’s 12th man. The support this summer has been unparalleled, but one more major push will be needed to propel these lions to the illustrious final.

With Tony Adams, Stuart Pearce & Gareth Southgate starting in a back three, the midfield anchor position will be a vital job for Paul Ince, after returning from suspension. Ince, the English enforcer in this side, will be tasked with balancing his duties next to a rejuvenated Paul Gascoigne. Gary Neville will be the one to miss out, with the experience of David Platt preferred in a five man midfield. Neville has had a tremendous season and tournament so far, and his career will surely be one that will brings much silverware in the coming years.

Gazza will be looking to avenge that ‘Night in Turin’, where England so famously lost out to Germany on penalties, in the 1990 World Cup semi final. Gascoigne would not have been eligible for the final had they progressed (due to suspension), but his tears will never leave those that watched on that day. We all hope that the bleached blonde wizard can weave his way to goal one more time.

Stuart Pearce (finally vindicated for his penalty miss in that final), will surely be roaring on his teammates in order to give his side the best chance of victory. Pearces’s quarter final penalty will surely be recalled in many tournaments to come, with his emotion matching that of a nation. As the ball hit the back of the net, you could see the relief and years of torment Pearce must have felt. This will probably be Stuart Pearce’s last international tournament, and no England supporter could ever deny wanting to see ‘psycho’ lift this converted trophy.

The 4-1 win against the Netherlands, will surely stand as one of the great modern day victories for England. Alan Shearer has once and for all shown himself to be a world class goalscorer, and his partnership with the veteran Teddy Sheringham, has been a joy to behold. The likes of Les Ferdinand & Robbie Fowler will again have to wait their chance to impress, with the forward line, so far set in stone. The German rear guard will have to overcome perhaps the strongest striker force in the tournament, in order to reach another final.

England’s slow start in the group games (a 1-1 draw with Switzerland), was soon forgotten with the 2-0 victory against the Scots. Paul Gascoigne stole the show that day, but a strong midfield performance by the young Jamie Redknapp shows good promise for the future, and possibly an option from the bench. The full time 0-0 draw to the dark horses, Spain, allowed England to display an encouraging swagger in the quarter final penalty shoot out, which will surely have them sitting confidently, if the semi final ends that way. England’s bad luck has to end at some point, and the array of talent will hopefully mean the dreaded shoot out does not transpire.

The balance of the team has maneuvered slightly throughout the campaign, but the wide options in Steve McManaman and Darren Anderson have shown they can emulate past wide men, John Barnes & Chris Waddle. Both have enjoyed strong domestic campaigns, with their energy and youth alongside the experience of Gascoigne & Platt. This attack minded midfield operating ahead of the anchor, Paul Ince, could fit nicely to disrupt this German machine.

Germany (having progressed past the impressive Croatia team), will probably go into this semi final as favorites. The fact that Jurgen Klinsmann was injured could however swing the tide England’s way, with the Germany captain out of the semi final. Matthias Sammer will probably lead the side, and look to drag his team to victory. Stefan Kutz & Andreas Muller will no doubt play key parts, but the sense is that momentum is with Terry Venables’ men.

The game is almost upon us, and despite the inevitable cagey moments the match will bring, the country is bouncing and expectant. The hope is that the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer or any England hero can find that magical moment that leads to a victorious kiss, of those ‘Three Lions on a Shirt’.

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