England-Germany rematch, 50 years later
Late withdrawal of Scholes won't dampen clash of fierce rivals England and Germany
The 1966 World Cup final had it all.
The late German equaliser that temporarily halted the hosts' celebrations and stretched the game to extra-time; the subsequent controversial England goal that continues to spark fierce debate and conspiracy theories; and finally, the iconic image of English skipper Bobby Moore holding aloft the Jules Rimet Trophy while sitting on the shoulders of Ray Wilson and hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst following the famous 4-2 victory at the old Wembley.
That first competitive meeting between England and then-West Germany would sow the seeds of a footballing rivalry that remains every bit as intense as it was on that July afternoon in London.
At Singapore's National Stadium tonight, the clock will be turned back.
A group of ex-England internationals will take on former German stars in a match billed as the Battle of Europe 2016, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the best World Cup finals.
It may be an exhibition match between veterans but, with a rivalry steeped in such rich history, it's safe to expect 80 minutes of proper football from players who made it to the highest level during their playing careers.
Even if the match suffered a late blow.
Ex-Manchester United star Paul Scholes, 41, arguably the biggest name in the English camp, announced his withdrawal last night due to a bad chest infection.
Scholes, widely recognised as one of England's best midfielders, said in a statement: "I'm really sorry to let the fans in Singapore down.
"I've been looking forward to playing in the stadium and meeting the fans, so this is disappointing.
"I am susceptible to infections, and my main focus now is to get my health in order.
"I look forward to the next opportunity where I can meet fans in Singapore."
It is a huge disappointment, especially for United fans, but the stellar cast of World Cup, European Championship and Champions League winners that will take to the field tonight will soften the blow.
In their pomp, many of the players played each other, and have dramatic stories to tell.
For England defenders Des Walker and Paul Parker, the sight of Lothar Matthaeus, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Guido Buchwald on the opposite half of the Kallang field will elicit friendly smiles, but also evoke painful memories.
The trio were part of a triumphant German side at the Stadio delle Alpi in Turin in 1990, when England lost a World Cup semi-final 4-2 on penalties.
Riedle and then-skipper Matthaeus were among the four German scorers in the shoot-out, while defender Buchwald started that match.
Matthaeus and Co. went on to lift the World Cup after a controversial 1-0 win over Diego Maradona's Argentina.
Six years later, Englishmen Teddy Sheringham, Darren Anderton and McManaman would experience the anguish of another shoot-out loss - in the Euro '96 semi-finals hosted by England - to Germany.
Emile Heskey, though, will have happier memories.
The striker was part of the Three Lions' starting 11 who inflicted a stunning 5-1 World Cup qualifying win over Germany in Munich in 2001, in a match which also featured McManaman as an England substitute.
From the German camp, Dietmar Hamann, Jens Nowotny, Marko Rehmer and Oliver Neuville were in that side.
Tonight, wearing their battle scars, the veterans cross swords once more.
Fans here could be set for a fascinating affair.
"The fact that Paul scholes isn’t here is a big disappointment. I spoke to him today and he’s not well; he’s got a very bad chest infection so he’s resting at home. he’s very upset that he could not be here and was desperate to come out and see the fans, ex-teammates and players. he’s looking forward to coming out on the next trip when he’s fit and well. We urge the fans to come down and watch the game. There are lots of fantastic players and it’ll be a wonderful competition, so please come along and have a good time!"
- Steve McManaman
Battle Of Europe 2016 — England Masters V Germany Masters
England masters include David James, Darren Anderton, Teddy Sheringham and Steve Mcmanaman. Germany masters include Lothar Matthaeus, Dietmar Hamann and Karl-heinz Riedle.
Standard tickets start from $30 and go up to $200 for Vip seating, while family packages (two adult + two concession tickets) cost $100. Concession tickets ($19 each) apply to students aged 12 and below, as well as senior citizens aged 65 and above. Tickets are available at http://www.mastersfootball.com and sports hub tix.