Lukas Podolski: England have dropped their 'rugby style' but now have to overcome nerves

Matt Law
Lucas Podolski says England play with two many pressure at the major tournaments - Bongarts

Lukas Podolski has claimed Gareth Southgate has dropped England’s old “rugby style” but still believes the true test will be whether or not his team can beat their tournament nerves.

Former Arsenal striker Podolski scored the only goal in his last-ever appearance for Germany to secure a 1-0 victory over Southgate’s England in Dortmund.

But World Cup winner Podolski, who made 130 appearances for Germany, believes there were plenty of encouraging signs for England as they prepare for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

“England have a good team, a good manager, they play a different style to before,” said Podolski, “Before it was a like a rugby style. They were physical, but they play more football now. They have a good team, good guys, good characters.”

England beat Germany 3-2 in a friendly last year before flopping at Euro 2016 and Podolski added: “I will watch England, as well as Germany, in the World Cup to see how they play. When they go to a tournament they are always nervous, they always play too much under pressure.”

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Wednesday night’s game acted as an international testimonial for Podolski, who made a speech on the pitch before kick-off and was substituted to the theme music from Gladiator. Scarves with his face and name on them were on sale outside the ground.

Both aged 31, Podolski believes Wayne Rooney, who was left out of England manager Southgate’s squad for the Germany and Lithuania games, deserves a similar send off to himself.

“Of course he does, I hope so because Rooney is one of the greatest in England,” said Podolski. “I don’t know if it’s traditional in England to give someone a farewell game, but when I am England boss or the president I will say ‘Wayne, next week you’ve got a game!’

Podolski scored in his final game for Germany

“For me, it was an amazing evening - like a movie. My last game against a good team in a very nice stadium, I scored a goal and 1-0. It’s like a movie. Of course, it was the perfect end.”

Podolski described himself as the last remaining member of Germany’s ‘golden generation’ of winners, while Rooney is the last of England’s big-name players who failed to justify the hype at major tournaments.

“I made the decision (to retire from international football) after the Euros,” said Podolski. “This was not a comeback. I played 13 years for Germany and eight tournaments, and you have to say it’s finished, you have to focus on other things like the family and club football.

“That’s why I decided to stop and now we have a nice team. I am the last one of the golden generation, Lahm is away, Mertesacker is away and now I am away, and we will see what happens in the next months and years.”

Podolski scored the only goal against England

Podolski played for three years under Wenger at Arsenal and is aware of the calls from some of the club’s supporters for the Frenchman to go.

But Podolski has warned that it might be difficult for whoever one day succeeds Wenger to imprint their own style at a club that for so long has been modelled around the 67-year-old.

“When there is something going in a bad way, then fans will say something,” said Podolski. “I don’t know, let’s see what happens. I didn’t ask the Arsenal guys with Germany because Arsenal and Arsene have to make the decision.

“He built the club from nothing to now they have a lot. It will be interesting when he leaves who comes in because the club is built like in the Arsene Wenger style. Who will come? I don’t know.

“This season, it will be hard to get the place for the Champions League, they are sixth or seventh? But this is the English League and there are six, seven or eight teams to fight for the European place. I don’t know what happens with Arsene next season. I hear only rumours and I will follow which players go and which players they sign.”

Asked whether he had received a message of goodwill from Wenger after scoring in his Germany farewell, Podolski replied: “Maybe, I think so. Lots of names got in touch, look at my phone.”

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