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New crop of kids getting their kicks

China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-22 07:35

England, Germany accenting youth in crucial friendly

New crop of kids getting their kicks

England's James Ward Prowse during the press conference of England Media Day in St George's Park, UK on March 20, 2017. James will debut for England in the friendly against Germany. [Photo/Agencies]

DORTMUND, Germany - World champion Germany hosts England in a prestigious friendly here on Wednesday, with both coaches primed to introduce some bright young prospects to one of soccer's great rivalries.

But that is where the similarities end for Joachim Loew and Gareth Southgate, who is helming England for the first time as permanent manager.

Southgate takes over with England at its lowest ebb in recent memory and with domestic expectations rock-bottom.

Loew, who has been at the helm since 2006, needs only to fine-tune Germany for defense of its crown at next year's World Cup in Russia.

Loew is set to give a debut to mercurial forward Timo Werner, 21, while goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer has been ruled out with a calf injury.

Germany is 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 have wildly contrasting records at recent major tournaments, including Euro 2016, where upstart Iceland humiliated England while the Germans made the semifinals.

Still, Germany is chasing its first home win since 1987 over its old rival and needs no reminding of the 5-1 mauling it took in Munich in 2001, when Michael Owen sniped a hat-trick.

But Southgate's squad is particularly light in the forward department, missing the injured Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge and dropping skipper Wayne Rooney.

The manager is debuting James Ward-Prowse, captain of England's under-21 team, along with 23-year-old Southampton teammate Nathan Redmond.

Southgate also recalled striker Jermain Defoe, returning to the squad at 34.

Defoe is an exception, as both Southgate and Loew will test their young guns before World Cup qualifiers on Sunday, when Germany plays Azerbaijan in Baku and England hosts Lithuania.

Disappointed

Both countries look like locks to reach Russia, but England has consistently disappointed when results really matter.

"If we want to reach our ambitions and goals we have to play these teams and beat them," Ward-Prowse said on Monday.

This will be Southgate's fifth game in charge of England, but his first since being named 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 due to a newspaper sting.

A former defender/midfielder for England, Southgate is looking to alter the team's mindset.

"I was on a team that made a semifinal (Euro 96), and that has happened once since 1990 and twice since 1966," he said. "That's my job, to analyze 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 sidelined with injuries.

When England and Germany last met, a year ago, Germany raced into a 2-0 lead on goals by Toni Kroos and Mario Gomez.

Kane, Jamie Vardy and Eric Dier then scored to seal England's comeback.

The friendly will see forward Lukas Podolski, who retired from international soccer 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," said striker Thomas Mueller.

"We're playing at home and it'll be something very special for him."

Agence France-Presse

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