Date in your diary: Gelsenkirchen, 14 June, Germany v Poland
The second outing for both teams, Germany and Poland will meet in
Gelsenkirchen for a match that is sure to prove crucial to both sides'
qualification hopes. And just to spice things up, this encounter will
remind more senior fans of another tussle on German soil. The venue was
Frankfurt and the occasion the second round of the 1974 FIFA World Cup™
and a match the West Germans narrowly won 1-0 before going on to lift
David v Goliath: Munich, 9 June, Germany v Costa Rica
The Costa Ricans could hardly have imagined a more testing first game
than a rendezvous with the hosts, who will undoubtedly be fired up for
the opening match of the tournament in front of a packed crowd at the
FIFA World Cup Stadium in Munich.
History repeats itself: Germany v Poland
West Germany faced Poland at two successive FIFA World Cup finals, in
1974 and 1978, but the matches produced just one goal, scored by Gerd
Muller for the Germans in '74.
At first sight, the Germans appear hot favorites to dominate Group
A. Always expected to shine in FIFA World Cup year, Germany ought to be
even more menacing with home advantage this time around. And they will
also be confident of starting off on the right foot against Costa Rica,
a team with numerous qualities, but evidently a rung below their
opponents on the international footballing ladder. Add the fact that
there will not be a spare seat in Munich as the hosts feel the force of
an entire nation behind them and it is hard to imagine them slipping up.
Unless the pressure proves too much, that is.
The second challenge awaiting Jurgen Klinsmann's men looks a lot more
difficult. Up against a Poland side who pushed England all the way
during qualification, they will definitely need to proceed with caution.
Indeed, games between the two outfits have always been close affairs and
not least in FIFA World Cups, with the Germans edging a tense match in
1974. A similar outcome would suit them down to the ground next June,
when they went on to win the title 31 years ago. And everyone knows how
important superstition is in football.
That said, nobody should be surprised if Ecuador end up spoiling the
party. Having sealed their place by leaving Paraguay and Uruguay in
their wake in the extremely competitive South American Zone, Luis
Fernando Suarez's charges will be afraid of no-one. Likewise, they will
have learned from their disappointing showing in 2002 and will be eager
to demonstrate their tidy passing game and attacking capabilities as
they strive for a berth in the last 16. Their task will not be easy,
however, particularly because their best results have all tended to come
at home. Performing on foreign soil has been a problem in the past and
one they will need to address before their crucial first match against
Poland in Gelsenkirchen.
Did you know?
Ecuador have only ever won one FIFA World Cup match. The good news is
that it came against a European side, Croatia, in 2002. The South
Americans will have two European teams to contend with next summer.