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The England-Germany Football Rivarly: Beyond World Wars and World Cups

Updated on April 15, 2018
Antonio Martinez1 profile image

Antonio Martinez graduated from Montclair State University with a BA in History and a double minor in Russian Area Studies and Journalism.

English fans celebrate in München, Germany as England plays Germany in a 2002 World Cup qualifier. The 5-1 victory for England helped the nation top Germany in its qualifying group.
English fans celebrate in München, Germany as England plays Germany in a 2002 World Cup qualifier. The 5-1 victory for England helped the nation top Germany in its qualifying group. | Source

Nearly 90 years has elapsed since two European nations began a rivalry that evolved into one of the most important and spirited rivalries not just in Europe, bu in the world. This rivalry has been periods of success that both nations have enjoyed. For all of its glamour and controversy, the England-Germany rivalry has become a phenomenon that has whetted fans' appetites across the globe.

Yet for all the history involved, one can stop to think that this rivalry is one England is fond of more than its other main rivals, particularly Scotland and Argentina. Germany, by contact, considered the Netherlands, not England, its main rival. Still, for nearly 90, each game contested, from friendly matches to elimination games, has told a story; some, as history would indicate, that story would not always have a positive outcome.

One of the more iconic and controversial images of the Germany-England rivalry came in 1938 as England performed the Nazi salute in Berlin's Olmpiastadion.
One of the more iconic and controversial images of the Germany-England rivalry came in 1938 as England performed the Nazi salute in Berlin's Olmpiastadion. | Source

Redemption amidst Nervy Times

England and Germany officially met for the first time on May 10, 1930. For one player heading, this match offered a chance to overcome redemption during recovery, He first gained fame while scoring a hat trick against Switzerland in 1927. But during the 1928 Summer Olympics, Richard Hoffman and Germany faced Uruguay in a quarterfinal when scandal unfolded. Despite scoring a late goal, Hoffman could not overcome Uruguay's provocation of dirty play and would be sent off during the 4-1 loss.

Hoffman, along with Hans Kalb, were suspended for one year by Germany's football governing body. especially for a nation .Two years later, Hoffman suffered a severe right ear injury after a car accident and spent most of his playing career with what was referred as a "bow on his ear." Before the match at Berlin's Deutches Stadion, Germany's coach Otto Nerz woke up an overslept Hoffmann; making matters worse was Germany's bus broke down as it headed toward the stadium and so player arrived at Deutches Stadion via taxi cabs.

Sill, despite all this, Hoffman made history. No player outside the Home Nations every recorded a hat trick, but Hoffmann's goals helped Germany overcome 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, with both England goals scored by Joe Bradford. Hoffmann's third goal gave Germany a 3-2 lead and on course for the victory until another history maker decided this match. In England, he scored the first ever goal at Wembley Stadium in 1923, and England's David Jack scored the tying goal as the match ended 3-3. Hoffmann was the main story as many English player surrounded the player nicknamed "King Richard" and wanted his soccer kit and boots.

Hoffmann, Jack and all the people in this game never got to play at the 1930 World Cup. But even Hoffman played through his injury, another player suffered what proved to be a career-ending injury: Sheffield Wednesday player William Marsden suffered a spinal injury after colliding with teammate Roy Goodall.

Mardsen never played another game for England. and never played another game for England.

Five years later, both countries met in London; this match, England's 200th international match, coincided with the first ever international fixture contested at White Hart Lane. The match, a 3-0 England victory in which George Camsell scored twice and Cliff Bastin added the third goal, was notable not for the scoreline. Rather, this event became an opportunity for Germany to promote Nazi propaganda with 10,000 Germans attended this event.

In 1938, England began a three-country tour in May at Berlin's Olympiastadion, and as was the case in 1935, a victory was overshadowed by controversy. This game, which ended with England winning 6-3, saw England showing respect to Germany with its players performing the Nazi salute. In 2001, British newspaper The Observer described this event as Engllsh players were "perhaps merely indifferent players (who had undoubtedly become more reluctant, to the point of mutiny, by the time the post-war memoirs were published)."

England would not face a unified Germany for the next 55 years.


Post World War to 1966

It would not be until 1954 when England faced West Germany again. West Germany were the reigning World Cup champions, but still could not defeat England. England won in 1954 (at Wembley Stadium) and again in 1956 (at Berlin's Olympiastadion). Terry Paine continued England's unbeaten run as he scored the only goal against West Germany in Nürnberg in 1965, a result that saw West Germany's first loss at Frankenstadion.

Nine months later, Nobby Stiles repeated Paine's feat in scoring at Wembley Stadium on Feb. 23, 1966. It was a match where two players earn their first caps for England, one of whom happened to be West Ham United player Geoff Hurst. Hurst started played in only three matches in the 1966 World Cup, but one happened to be the World Cup final on July 30, 1966.

This game saw both teams score early goals in the first half. West Germany scored first when Helmut Haller took advantage of a mistimed Ray Wilson header to score 12 minutes into the match. Hurst tied the game as he headed the ball from a Bobby Moore free kick down and into the net. The game remained at 1-1 until the 77th minute when England had a corner kick. Alan Ball launched a shot toward Hurst, which deflected toward Peters. Peters shot the ball to put England up 2-1. England was on course to win the World Cup until late in the game.

In the 89th minute, Lothar Emmerich took a free kick that found Karl-Heinz Schnellinger. The ball deflected Schnellinger and eventually found Wolfgang Weber. Weber then scored right before regulation ended, but the debate as to where the ball deflected off Schnellinger was controversial. England's goalkeeper Gordon Banks claimed Schnellinger handled the ball, but the goal stood as replays indicated the ball struck Schnelliger from behind.

There was some debate about Weber's goal, but to this date, many people still question England's pivotal moment 11 minutes into extra time. After receiving Ball's cross, Hurst struck the ball on the crossbar's underside before it bounced down toward the white line. Referee Gottfried Dienst was unsure what to call, so he consulted linesman Tofik Bakhramov.

Bakhramov awarded Hurst the goal, a decision that angered West German players and also ushered a new moniker: Wembley-Tor, or "Wembley goal" in German.

West Germany pressed for the equalizing goal, but could not do so. Instead, Moore found Hurst wide open with a sea of spectators out onto the field. Hurst looked to run out the clock when BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme uttered these famous words:

"And here comes Hurst. He's got... some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over. It is now! It's four!"

Hurst had his hat trick, and England won 4-2 to win its first World Cup, and the game became a turning point in this rivalry that has been evident to this date. The victory for England also featured one of the nation's more popular chants: Two World Wars and One World Cup.

One of the more iconic images of the 1990 World Cup was Paul Gascoigne crying after his yellow card against West Germany ruled him out of England's final match. England lost to West Germany on a penalty shootout.
One of the more iconic images of the 1990 World Cup was Paul Gascoigne crying after his yellow card against West Germany ruled him out of England's final match. England lost to West Germany on a penalty shootout. | Source

West Germany Emerges Onto the World Scene

England became World Cup champions, but West Germany began to close the gap in 1968. It was when West Germany, thanks to a Franz Beckenbauer goal, defeated England. The Observer's Hugh McIlvanney described the result, played at Hannover's Niedersachsenstadion, as a match "though short of his own highest standards, was one of the few satisfying features of a shabby, uninspired match...They have beaten England, and that is enough."

Winning did not stop there. At the 1970 World Cup, a rematch came in the quarterfinals at Estadio Nou Camp in Leon, Mexico. England had gone up 2-0 with goals from Alan Mullery and Peters. Beckenbauer scored for West Germany in the 69th minute before Uwe Seeler, the first player to score at least two goals at four consecutive World Cups, tied the match in the 82nd minute.

The match went into extra time, where a new World Cup star emerged. Known as "Der Bomber," Gerd Müller scored the only goal in extra time. Hurst failed to replicate his magic from 1966 as West Germany won 3-2. Two years later, Hurst played his final match for England; that came on Apr. 29, 1972 in a Euro 1972 playoff quarterfinal, with West Germany winning 3-1 in a match that McIlvanney dsecribed as a nation on a mission, because "they came to Wembley and comprehensively outclassed England." A scoreless draw in Berlin's Olympiastadion sufficed for West Germany as it was a stepping stone en route to West Germany winning Euro 1972 and the 1974 World Cup.

England defeated West Germany in 1975 (2-0) before West Germany returned the favor three years later in München's Olympiastadion (2-1). Then, both nations met twice in 1982. The first meeting came in Madrid, Spain during the 1982 World Cup: a scoreless stalemate in the second round proved important as West Germany reached the World Cup final. Despite the early exit, England had an impressive 1982 as the nation lost only one game - an Oct. 13 meeting at Wembley Stadium, where Karl-Heinz Rummenigge scored both goals in West Germany's 2-1 victory.

England's second victory against West Germany since 1966 came at the fabled Estadio Azteca: a 3-0 victory in 1986 during a mini-tournament Mexico hosted in preparation for the 1986 World Cup, with Kerry Dixon scoring his first goal for England. A year later, West Germany won in Düsseldorf, a 3-1 friendly victory where Pierre Littbarski scored twice.

Then came July 4, 1990: the World Cup semifinal between these two nations also marked the final meeting in the rivalry before German reunification. West Germany, having impressed en route to this match, broke the scoreless deadlock after an hour courtesy of Andreas Brehme. England, having survived five close calls, responded thanks to Gary Lineker; having scored two penalties to knock out Cameroon in England's quarterfinal, Lineker tied the game 20 minutes later.

As the match went into extra time tied at 1-1, one of the World Cup's most notable scenes unfolded; Paul Gascoigne cried after receiving a yellow card that ruled him ineligible for the World Cup final had England advanced.

David Platt thought he scored another goal, only for his goal to be disallowed because of an offside play. West Germany's Jürgen Klinsmann missed two chances to give West Germany the victory. Penalty kicks decided this match As both teams combined to succeed on its first seven attempts, Bodo Illgner saved Stuart Pearce's attempt. Olaf Thon converted his try for West Germany before Chris Waddle miss for England sent West Germany to the final and an eventual World Cup..

Action from the 1970 World Cup

Germany's Dietmar Hamann (14) and England's Paul Scholes (8) battle for possession in a Euro 2000 match in Charleroi, Belgium. England won the match 1-0.
Germany's Dietmar Hamann (14) and England's Paul Scholes (8) battle for possession in a Euro 2000 match in Charleroi, Belgium. England won the match 1-0. | Source

Detroit's Litmus Test

Ten Years Following Germany's Reunification

After the 1990 World Cup, Germany became a unified nation as the nation appointed Hans Helmer "Berti" Vogts as the new manager, replacing Beckenbauer. The winning continued for Germany as Karl-Heinz scored the games only goal in a 1991 meeting at Wembley.

Two years later, Germany and England met in another mini-tournament: a June 19, 1993 match at the US Cup, a tournament serving as a precursor to the 1994 World Cup. The match came at Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome and it was the first soccer match played indoors and on grass. Stefan Effenberg opened the scoring before Platt tied the game; then, Klinsmann capped off a great tournament for Germany, his fourth goal giving Germany the tournament thanks to the 2-1 victory.

Thirty years after winning the World Cup on home soil, England host Germany in the Euro 1996 semifinal. The host nation began with an emphatic statement, courtesy of Alan Shearer scoring the tournament's fastest goal. Germany equalized with a goal from Stefan Kuntz 12 minutes later. As was 1990, penalty kicks determined who would play in the final. This time, both teams combined to score on its first 10 attempts. But Gareth Southgate's miss on England's sixth attempt set up a fond farewell for Andreas Möller. Ineligible for the final due to yellow card accumulation, Möller converted attempt sent Germany to the final.

To date, that penalty loss began a current streak of six straight penalty shootout losses at major tournaments for England.

England's next match against Germany came at Euro 2000 in Charleroi, Belgium with more notoriety, with the possibility that the stadium could face a situation similar to that of the Hillsborough disaster. Furthermore, riots against Belgium police led to numerous arrests deportations, prompting the possibility of expelling England from Euro 2000.

Things got cleared ahead of the game, but another familiar face did damage in the rivalry. Shearer scored against Germany once again, and England has its first competitive victory against Germany since 1966. The result proved demoralizing for Germany, its leading newspaper Bild running a headline reading: "0-1! Germany weeps. Is it all over?" Sadly, both England and Germany cried at Euro 2000 after they lost their respective group stage finales.

Three months later, England cried farewell to an icon.

Oliver Bierhoff (gray jacket), Oliver Kahn (1) and Tony Adams (5) walking out onto the field on Oct. 7, 2000 in what was England's final match at the old Wembley Stadium. Germany won 1-0.
Oliver Bierhoff (gray jacket), Oliver Kahn (1) and Tony Adams (5) walking out onto the field on Oct. 7, 2000 in what was England's final match at the old Wembley Stadium. Germany won 1-0. | Source

Miracle at München

2010 Meeting

Classics and Shockers

Seldom does two former World Cup champions meet in the same World Cup qualifying group, but no question that England and Germany would play the most anticipated matches. The Oct. 7, 2000 meeting proved to also be England's final home game at the old Wembley Stadium. A 14th-minute goal from Dietmar Hamann put Germany ahead and goalkeeper Oliver Kahn made crucial saves in the match. England's David Seaman had saved a Mehmet Scholl shot early in the second half, but Germany hung on to win.

England's 1-0 loss also proved to be the final game for England manager Kevin Keegan. When the teams met again on Sept. 1, 2001, England has its first foreign manager in Sweden's Sven-Göran Eriksson. England.looked to do something Portugal did 16 years earlier and that win at Germany in a World Cup qualifier.

More interesting was that Germany had not lost at München's Olympiastadion in 38 years and a Germany win would seal qualification to the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Germany lead the match after six minutes thanks to Carsten Jancker. England needed a win to avoid a potential playoff and responded as Michael Owen tied the game six minutes later. With halftime looming, England broke the deadlock, with Steven Gerrard scoring is first goal for England.

England pressed forward, and their attacking play paid dividends as Owen scored twice to complete his hat-trick. Finally, Emile Heskey capped off England's best night as a 5-1 victory proved crucial in England qualifying directly ahead of Germany on goal difference for an automatic berth at the 2002 World Cup.

It was a memorable night for England, with BBC commentator John Motson saying about the match that: "I think this could be our best victory over Germany since the war." It was also memorable for German coach Rudi Voller, but more on a personal note: his father survived a resuscitation after suffering a heart attack.

History unfolded again on Aug. 22, 2007, as both teams met in the first international match at the new Wembley Stadium. Frank Lampard put England up 1-0, but the defense let England down in the game. Poor defending allowed Germany's Kevin Kuranyi to tie the game before Christian Pander scored to break a 1-1 draw. It was a new stadium, but Germany had a similar result as it won 2-1.

A year later, England exacted revenge a year late on the road as both teams exchanged goals. Matthew Upson scored his first goal for England before Patrick Helmes tied the match for Germany. John Terry's winning goal gave England a 2-1 victory; the result was Germany's first loss at Berlin's Olympiastadion in 35 years.

The 2008 victory carried momentum as England reached the 2010 FIFA World Cup, although England needed a victory over Slovenia just to reach the Round of 16 as runners-up to the United States in its group. England's opponent in the Round of 16 happened to be Germany, with the match contested as Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Germany impressed early and went up 2-0 on goals by Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski before Upson scored in the 37th minute. Then two minutes later, Frank Lampard shot a ball that struck the crossbar's underside, and the ball crossed over the white line.

That goal should have levelled the match at 2-2. Instead, the referee never allowed the goal. Germany continued playing after Manuel Neuer recovered the ball, despite the ball crossing the line inside the net. Lampard's shot never counted and that played had repercussions after the tournament. England never recovered as Thomas Müller added two goals in four minutes.

The 4-1 defeat became England's worst defeat ever at the World Cup.

Friendly after South Africa?

In 2013, England celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Football Association, the oldest known organization in the world. England's match against Germany came one month after both nations qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A goal in the 39th minute fro Germany's captain Per Mertesacker proved to be the difference as Germany won. As Germany continued to win in London, so did England continue to win in Germany and especially Berlin.

However, during the 2016 meeting, England played most of the match with England's goalkeeper Jack Butland, after the player suffered an ankle injury while receiving a back pass. Toni Kroos would capitalize for Germany right before halftime. Then on 57 minutes, Mario Gomez scored his first goal for Germany since Euro 2012. Despite trailing 2-0, England remained undeterred. Harry Kane halved the deficit in the 61st minute before Jamie Vardy, a key player in Leicester City's historic 2016 league title triumph, scored his first goal for England three minutes after coming on as a substitute.

With the match in stoppage time, it was another Tottenham player that completed the comeback. He was also eligible to play for Portugal, but Eric Dier headed in Jordan Henderson's corner kick to give England a 3-2 victory and the first victory for England in which it trailed by two goals.

One year later, Germany won its first match against England on German soil in nearly 30 years thanks to a former Arsenal player. This player happened to be Podolski, who played in his final international fixture for Germany and scored the only goal in the 67th minute at Dortmund's Westfalenstadion. That was not the story as controversy struck this match one again. Instead, reports indicated that some sections of England supporters booed during Germany's national anthem and even made references to World War II. As of this date, an investigation is still pending.

Over seven decades of games have England and Germany contested matches. Whether England and Germany view each other at its main rival could be open for debate. But there is no debating that England and Germany have made this one of football's best rivalries.

© 2014 Antonio Martinez


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      3 years ago

      Morning Antonio.

      A wonderful account from two of the worlds footballing giants. All though it is still said that England is the home of football or soccer as it is known in the USA, unfortunately England aren't the giants they used to be. Don't get me wrong I love watching a good game but these days it's at club level that the world sees our best football. At national level we just don't seem to be able to get it together. The difference is seen in your two countries in this hub. Germany have more home grown talent playing with the top clubs, whereas in England money is the name of the game and winning is all that counts. Therefore more transfers of foreigners. I remember a story that in one of Arsenals games they didn't have a single English player on the field. I'm not to sure, but it just goes to show.

      Great hub Antonio. The funny thing is that I now live over here in Germany and have many footballing friends. My team is from the first place I landed and also where I met my wife Köln. That is 1FC Köln, better known to the world as Cologne. At the moment in the middle of the table in 11th place.

      Thanks for a very interesting and informative hub.


      PS: Merry Christmas and a happy New Year for you and your family.


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