Bloemfontein: England and Germany do battle in Bloemfontein on Sunday for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals, a clash that comes sooner than they would have expected or perhaps wanted.

Both teams were highly tipped to win their first round groups, especially England who were drawn together with what were considered relatively soft opponents.

But Fabio Capello’s men struggled with draws against the United States and Algeria, and only scraped through to the Round of 16 thanks to a 1-0 win against tournament first-timers Slovenia.

In contrast, Germany, under coach Joachim Loew, began their campaign with a 4-0 drubbing of Australia, and despite a surprise 1-0 defeat to Serbia in their next match, still managed to top their group with a 1-0 victory against Ghana in their last game.

Still, more than an awareness of those recent results, it is the weight of history that could press down on the minds of the two teams in Bloemfontein.

And when it comes to high profile showdowns, it is again England that come second-best.

Sunday’s match marks the third time in the space of 20 years that England and Germany have met in the knockout stages of a major tournament.

At the 1990 World Cup and on home soil at Euro 96, England went out on penalties to Germany. On both those occasions the Germans then went on to win the competition.

Then again, in the match with the highest stakes of them all, the 1966 World Cup final, England triumphed on home soil 4-2. The Germans however, still recriminate against a goal credited to Geoff Hurst when the ball appeared not to have crossed the line.

Still, for England it might be a good thing that Capello as an Italian is probably immune to the fierce traditional football rivalry that separates the two nations.

Instead he will try and harness what little good emerged from the Three Lions’ last first round match against the Slovenes, and probably hope that some of his under-performing stars finally hit form.

“They needed this victory (against Slovenia). The victory will be important because I have always felt they can play against any team here and I now am sure the performance will always be at that level,” Capello said ahead of Bloemfontein match.

In midfield Chelsea’s Frank Lampard, Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard and Manchester City’s Gareth Barry are considered sure starters, while Aston Villa’s James Milner who played well against the Slovenes is expected to keep his spot on the right wing ahead of Aaron Lennon.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Jermaine Defoe will be hoping that his vital strike against Slovenia will assure him of as starting place up front next to Wayne Rooney.

And it is from the Manchester United striker that England will be looking to for something special against the Germans.

Rooney, so devastatingly effective during Manchester United’s below-par past season, has appeared confused and even sluggish in South Africa.

In deciding whether to stick to the line-up used against Slovenia or to shuffle his squad, Capello has to contend with the return from suspension of defender Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher and Tottenham’s Ledley King who has recovered from a groin problem.

All 23 England players took part in training Saturday, suggesting that Capello can rely on his full contingent against Germany.

“It is a good feeling because if they trained they are fit to play,” Capello had said on Friday.

Ahead of the trip to Bloemfontein, Capello gathered his players in the middle of the training ground for a short talk before the squad began the session, which was open to the media for the first 15 minutes, with some light running and a game of handball.

Germany were expected earlier in Bloemfontein on Saturday with their training session scheduled for the late afternoon on the campus of a local university.

Stuttgart striker Cacau is set to miss the match on account of a stomach muscle strain, according to team manager Oliver Bierhoff.

“The injury means he won’t be available,” Bierhoff admitted before his side travelled to Bloemfontein.

But Loew will be able to welcome back from suspension Bayern Munich’s Miroslav Klose who scored against Australia, but then received a first-half red card in the subsequent loss against Serbia.

Of concern however, is the fitness of influential Bayern midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger who picked up a thigh strain against Ghana.

There is also some doubt on whether Hamburg’s Jerome Boateng has recovered from a calf injury he sustained in Germany’s final group game the African side.

Both will be given a fitness test during training on Saturday.

“Then we’ll see if they have recovered from their injuries and are 100 per cent fit,” Bierhoff said.

If Schweinsteiger is ruled out, 20-year-old Toni Kroos is set to deputise.

“Toni has self-confidence, he came off the bench against Ghana and he has shown that he is ready,” said Loew.