Why England and Germany’s Football History Gives Hope to Southgate’s Side


History is a huge part of football and the Euro. As fans, we are guided by it, sometimes in a positive light, other times like moths to the fiercest flame.

One such dangerously hot atmosphere will reverberate around Wembley tonight as England face off against Germany in the first knockout stage of Euro 2020.

Will Joachim Low’s team once again get the better of their old enemy, England? Or could Harry Kane lead Gareth Southgate’s side to victory and escape that age-old trope of fearing their commonest enemy in international tournaments?

Let’s look back at how the beef began.

Trading Jules Rimet Trauma  

It spawned a thousand ‘Was it over the line?’ debates, but back in 1966, there was no goal-line technology. Yes, perhaps the first point of any England-Germany dispute went in the former’s favor as they won the World Cup for the first and only time in 1966 on home soil. Led by Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, and Martin Peters, it was reported as the day ‘West Ham won the World Cup’ as England triumphed against the then West German side 4-2 in Extra Time.

Setting aside the final moment where Geoff Hurst sealed his hat-trick with practically the last kick of the game, the goal that put England 3-2 up was extremely controversial. Did it cross the line? Make your own mind up.

Revenge for West Germany was incredibly sweet. Four years later, the two countries met in the boiling heat of Guadalajara as Mexico 1970 served up a classic… for the neutral. England went into a 2-0 lead but were pegged back with 23 minutes remaining, before capitulating to a late Uwe Seeler header.

Before the game, Gordon Banks had been ruled out with a stomach upset, and England was left sick as parrots when West Germany’s Gerd Muller scored in extra-time. Hurst had an almost immediate equalizer ruled out for offside, too.

Back to the Nineties

After two such closely-timed clashes, England and a unified Germany avoided each other in tournament football for the next two decades, sidling past each other like separated parents at a wedding of one of their children. The two sides renewed rivalries in 1990 when, at Italia ’90, the World Cup semi-final hosted perhaps the most memorable meeting between the two sides.

Peter Shilton’s lack of movement saw England fall behind to an early deflected free-kick, which looped up off Paul Parker and beat the Nottingham Forest keeper when it really shouldn’t have. England battled back admirably, equalizing through a brilliant strike from Gary Lineker to send the two sides level into extra-time.

Nothing could divide the two old adversaries in the added 30 minutes, so penalty kicks decided the winners. It would be two left-footed players who missed penalties, as Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle both failed to beat Bodo Illgner from the spot.

The sight of hard man Stuart Pearce openly sobbing from the moment he missed his kick can’t have helped England players or fans much at the time, but there were to be more tears six years later. Back on home soil, Euro ’96 was an incredible tournament where England had the best chance of winning silverware in 30 years, and as Three Lions echoed around Wembley, England and Germany somehow conspired to meet in the semi-finals again.

These were different players; a new team with Terry Venables in charge, and one that had blitzed past Scotland and Holland to escape the group stage. A team that had laid waste the ghosts of the past in a penalty shootout victory against Spain prior to meeting Germany. Surely the stage was set for retribution, in the manner that West Germany had achieved in 1970.

Alas, it was not to be. When Gareth Southgate missed, it led to tears from English fans, Germans singing ‘It’s Coming Home’ as Three Lions became an anthem for the winners, at England’s expense. Southgate, distraught, would mock himself in a Pizza Hut advert along with Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle:

Can Recent Results Prompt English Revenge?

Two results at the turn of the century hinted at the possibility of a change of fortunes in the age-old rivalry, with England triumphing 1-0 in the group stage of Euro 2000 before a 5-1 humbling of Germany in Munich gave English fans hope that the tide had turned.

Rooney WC2010

Wayne Rooney is talking about Frank Lampard’s shot here (honest)

Nine years passed before the 2010 World Cup knockout phase reminded everyone just how ruthless Germany could be if they were allowed to play on the break at pace. Gareth Barry was all over the place, getting lapped by German attackers, while John Terry and Matt Upson were the kind of center-back pairing strikers like Miroslav Klose dreamt of playing against.

England, frankly, was a complete shambles, and Lampard’s ‘goal’ was immaterial.

So, who will get the win tonight? While it’s bound to be a close call, we can see it going either way but in a big way. Let’s explain what we mean.

In the past 32 meetings between the two countries, England have won 13 games, Germany 15 and there have been just four draws. That’s an astonishingly low number of tied matches. In competitive games, that record is three England wins to Germany’s six, with just two stalemates being those 1990s classics we all still pick to pieces.

Because of their superiority over England, Germany has won four World Cups and three European Championships. Only Brazil can lay claim to being a more successful international side. England has never won the European Championships, finishing third in 1968 and again in 1996.

In simple terms, if one team gets into the lead, they often go on to win at a canter, much as England eventually did in 1966 and 2000 and Germany achieved in 2010. Both teams are set up perfectly to play on the counterattack, so whoever scores the first goal – as long as it is not immediately equalized and the game settles into a pattern – is likely to win.

We can see both teams managing this, but England is more likely to score first. They’re yet to concede, including against Croatia, who scored six goals in their final two games of the tournament, and the Czech Republic, who have surprised everyone but England so far.

Germany, by contrast, trailed to France and were unable to equalize, trailed to Portugal and were only handed a way back into the game via two own goals and trailed to Hungary twice, again being unable to win as a result. They’ve shown how ruthless they were once ahead in the game against Portugal, winning 4-2 and playing on the break, but if England can score first, they can put a defensively weak German side to the sword.

On a side note, Jude Bellingham turns 18 today. How fitting it might be if the jet-heeled midfield powerhouse was to prove pivotal against the country in which he has become a star at Borussia Dortmund.

Our verdict: England to win -1 goal handicap.

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