England and Germany have played one another for more than a century, but it was only after WWII that the tensions really showed. The origins of the bad blood do in fact reach back before the conflict, to the rise of the Nazi party and a friendly played in Berlin before 100,000 fans. The English squad were given commands to perform a Nazi salute before the game, which they did, at the time not particularly caring one way or another. Looking back, it’s a sure sore spot. By the by, that 1938 matchup ended in a win for the lions.
War and interim friendlies aside, we come to the World Cup final of 1966, played in Wembley between England and the newish West Germany.
The Germans drew level at the death, sending the game into extra time where a controversial goal for England saw them go up 3-2, then another soon after secured the game at 4-2. England had won it’s first (and only) World Cup, and the Germans left feeling cheated by a Azerbaijani linesman who they felt was a distinctly anti-West German communist sympathizer. The nature of the goal, in that it may very well have NOT crossed the line, entered the german lexicon as a “Wembley Goal”, and is still used to this day to describe any goal of a similar nature.
German finally bested the English in a 1968 friendly, but it was a sordid display full of vicious fouls against what was effectively an English reserve team. It did, though, set up the 1970 World Cup quarter-final match between the two, where the Germans went down 2-0 only to rally behind the strength of Beckenbauer to tie the match, with legendary striker Ger Müller finding the winner in extra time. The English were then knocked out of the 1972 Euros, losing at Wembley, the site of their once great triumph.
The 1990 World Cup saw the teams meet again, and this time the weakness of English PK taking was exposed against the steely finishing touch of the German penalty takers. West Germany went on to win that Cup, and the narrowness of defeat was devastating to the English – the iconic image of the match being Gascoigne crying right on the field after receiving a yellow that would have seen him out of the final had the English gone through. It typified the feelings of the nation: abject misery and helplessness in defeat.
The squads met again in the ’96 Euro semi-finals, and after much stirring up of old animosities by the British tabloids, the fans were right rabid. Again the teams were tied at the end of 120 minutes, and again the Germans prevailed in penalty kicks. Germany, the now unified Germany, went on to win that tournament.
Only in the 2000 Euro did England finally win another competitive match against the Germans (the last being 34 years earlier in that 1966 Cup final). It was a group match and ended up being meaningless for the points, as both teams crashed out of the group, not advancing to the knockout stages. Still, a shot in the arm for the English.
They next found themselves in the same qualifying group for the 2002 World Cup. Germany came to Wembley and the teams proceeded to play the last ever international match there before the stadium’s demolition. Germany won 1-0 while the English looked idealess. The crowd, equally out of new ways to get at the Germans, began chanting “Stand up if you won the War”.
The return match in Munich saw the English win by 5 goals to 1, with Michael Owen scoring a hat trick. The English went on to win their qualifying group, but crashed out of the tournament in the quarterfinals while the Germans came in second to Brazil.
There hasn’t been a competitive match between the two until the one scheduled for Saturday. The English have looked confused and without a cutting edge, and the Germans, while young and less experienced, have looked like a creative attacking side with a solid defense. Should make for an exciting match……