Lahm: Penalties would suit Germany
Germany captain Philipp Lahm has started the penalty mind-games with England ahead of Sunday's second round clash, claiming a shoot-out would "suit" his side.
Germany famously knocked England out of both the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96 tournaments on penalties, and with the 2010 versions of each team appearing to be evenly matched after mixed results in the group stage, another shoot-out in Bloemfontein is a real possibility.
England coach Fabio Capello has named his five preferred penalty takers ahead of time and revealed they practise spot-kicks after every training session. It's no wonder - England have crashed out of the past two World Cups on penalties, including a shocking 3-1 shoot-out loss to Portugal in 2006 when current squad members Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher all missed. Germany have scored their past 12 penalties in shoot-outs, and Lahm is happy to talk up the perceived advantage.
Lahm said: "Maybe it will go to penalties - that could suit us. I think we are mentally good, we will be prepared for it. We practise penalties sometimes, not every player, but sometimes. I hope the English won't be so confident. There is a big history (between the teams), they are always big games, interesting games. We will see, we are ready to fight. Then we will see who is in the next round.''
Joachim Low identified Wayne Rooney as the "big gun'' in the England team despite his lacklustre form at the tournament so far and Lahm agrees he is a man to keep a close watch on.
Asked if the Manchester United man was the biggest threat to Germany, Lahm said: "Yes, really, he's a good striker, he has scored many goals this year. He's a big player, and big players score goals in big matches. But there is also (Steven) Gerrard, (Frank) Lampard, (James) Milner, every player plays in the Premier League so every player is a good player. They have top players who play at the top level. They all play in the Premier League so I think they are favourites.''
Germany's winner in their 1-0 group stage victory over Ghana was scored by Werder Bremen playmaker Mesut Ozil, and Lahm sees him as a key man in the plans of the Nationalmannschaft.
"He is a good player, he always wants the ball, he has good technique and scores goals,'' Lahm said. "He is a different type of player to the others and is an important player for us. I think he could become one of the best. He is young, he has talent, good talent, so we will see. It's his third year in the Bundesliga so we will see in the next years.''
Ozil took a knock in the game against Ghana and will be assessed by the team's medical staff, while Jerome Boateng suffered a back injury and Bastian Schweinsteiger sustained a muscle problem. The Germans were also badly affected before the tournament began, with their usual captain Michael Ballack ruled out by an ankle injury suffered in the FA Cup final.
Lahm said: "Ballack is a big player for us who also plays in the Premier League. It will not be easy without him, the young players look up to him so it's not easy for us.''
Ozil himself expects a tough game for Germany against England, adding: "It's going to be tough against England, clearly they are stronger than Ghana, extremely strong. But if we can put our strengths on the field I'm sure we will win that too.''