Franz Beckenbauer has claimed England look 'burnt out' ahead of their World Cup last-16 clash with Germany following a gruelling Premier League season. England's failure to win Group C means they will meet Group D winners Germany in the first knockout phase match in Bloemfontein on Sunday afternoon, and Beckenbauer would rather have seen the two sides go head to head later in the competition.
"A game like this should be a semi-final, not a last-16 game," Beckenbauer told Germany's Bild newspaper. "Unfortunately, the English have slipped up a little by finishing second in their group."
However, Beckenbauer believes Germany are fresher than Fabio Capello's side and that this will work in their favour on Sunday. "The English look a little tired," he said. "There is a good reason for that: the Premier League players have got to play far more games than their Bundesliga colleagues, including two national cup competitions. Therefore, when it comes to a World Cup or a European Championship, they are burnt out.
"Our players, on the other hand, seem to be in a physically better condition. Of course we respect them, but we certainly don't fear them. England's first two appearances at the World Cup were paltry, but they improved against Slovenia."
Beckenbauer admitted it will not be an easy game for Germany, since he expects England to be particularly motivated, not only due to the age-old rivalry between the two nations. "What makes them dangerous is that their key players Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and John Terry sense that this could be the last chance in their career to win a World Cup," he added. "And after all, England have been waiting since 1966 for a title.
"Fabio Capello appears to have brought discipline to the troops. After they failed to qualify for Euro 2008, England hit rock bottom. Capello has brought in a new structure."
The stage is set for "another fantastic football battle" which Beckenbauer says is guaranteed when the two teams lock horns. "England against Germany – they were always the biggest, most unforgettable games in our history," he said. "Football fans can only look forward to this classic."