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Freund on the old foes

Club legend, Hall of Famer and former German international Steffen Freund give his verdict on Sunday's huge World Cup clash.

Steffen Freund knows exactly what it's like when England and Germany square up in the finals of a major tournament.

Our former midfielder, fans favourite and Hall of Famer played in one of the most famous recent clashes between the nations in the European Championship semi-final at Wembley back in 1996.

Germany won that game on penalties after a 1-1 draw, but few fans who watched that night will forget some of the heart-stopping moments - Darren Anderton (the pair are pictured at their Hall of Fame induction) hitting the post, Germany having a ‘golden goal' winner ruled out and then Gazza just inches away sliding in for a cross - Steffen was the German player on the line trying to deny him.

That win continued Germany's run against the Three Lions that stretched back to the 1970 World Cup and included the semi-final defeat at Italia 90.

England stopped the rot with a 1-0 win at Euro 2000 and now the old rivals will go head-to-head again in the last 16 of the World Cup in South Africa on Sunday.

Steffen, who played 131 times for us between 1998-2003, is now coaching Germany's national youth teams and was happy to give Spurs fans the German perspective of another mouth-watering clash.

"The first reaction from everyone in Germany was the same as always and that is that Germany will win in the end," he said. "I have to say it will probably go down to extra time and penalties again, I'm sorry!

"If you've watched both teams you will agree that it will be a tough and tight game.

"England didn't play so well in the first two games but came back strongly against Slovenia. That will give them confidence and the power to play well against Germany.

"Germany played very well in their first game against Australia, not bad with 10 men against Serbia but lost and I thought they were a little lucky against Ghana, they could easily have gone 1-0 down in that match before winning 1-0.

"That's why I think it's such an even game. Both teams are strong and it's almost like a final in the last 16. It's a massive game to have so soon after the group stages."

Freund, Euro 96

That famous night for Germany back in 1996 was bitter-sweet for Steffen.

As we all know, Germany won, but Steffen was stretchered off towards the end of the match having suffered knee ligament damage. Germany won the tournament, Steffen was out for nine months.

He recovered, won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and played in the 1998 World Cup before joining Spurs in December 1998.

Naturally, he remembers the night well. "It was an unbelievable feeling to play at Wembley. It was the biggest game in my life and the best atmosphere in my life.

"Everyone here in Germany is looking forward to the game and I'm sure it's the same in England. Germany go into it with a winning feeling, the players and coaches know it will be tough but their mentality is that they will win in the end.

"That is the only difference. In Euro 96, England played well against Germany. They could have won in normal time and extra time but in the end we won on penalties. It was so close - no-one deserved to lose.

"I have the feeling it will be the same again. There is hope for England though because we all believe that the English squad is strong offensively with the likes of Rooney and Defoe, Gerrard and Lampard. I'm sure Rooney will get better."

Steffen, capped 21 times by Germany, predicts a bright future for his country.

"We have a younger squad now," he added. "Five players in South Africa played in the Under-21 final against England last year. It shows good young players are coming through and that's really important.

"I think our average age is around 25 and that's the lowest since about 1934. I'm not 100 per cent sure they can go all the way this time, but the future is certainly bright and these are players aged 20, 21 who can play in the national team straight away, not wait until they are 25, 26. That's the difference now."