England vs Germany: International football’s biggest rivals?
International football has many great rivalries but very few are quite as eagerly anticipated as the English against the Germans.
The two have met just 33 times since their first official meeting in Berlin in 1930, a 3-3 draw, having previously met nine times in unofficial internationals before that.
The two will meet again at the European Championships Round of 16 stage on Tuesday 29 June 2021 at Wembley Stadium in, what will be, a huge occasion.
Ahead of this mammoth clash, here’s the six most iconic meetings of England and Germany, so far.
6: World Cup 2002 Qualifier: Germany 1-5 England
This clash from September 2001 is the only one on the list that did not take place at a major finals but, from an English perspective at least, it’s still a memorable occasion.
Despite both finishing the 20th century brightly, the start of a new millennium hadn’t gone to plan for either nation.
Both crashed out of Euro 2000 at the group stages, Germany with one point and England with just one win which came against the Germans in Charleroi.
This led to a complete rethink and overhaul in Germany, known as Das Reboot.
Just four months after their clash at the Euros, the two met again in World Cup Qualifying.
This was the last game ever played at the old Wembley but Didi Hamann scored the only goal in a 1-0 away win which prompted Kevin Keegan to resign at full time.
By the time the two met again, 11 months later, England had a first foreign manager in charge: Sven-Göran Eriksson.
Not only were the Three Lions desperate to inflict revenge on their old enemies, they needed to win in Munich to get back into contention.
However, it was the hosts who made the perfect start when Carsten Jancker pocked the ball past David Seaman but, what followed would go down in England folk-law.
Michael Owen equalised, following a scramble at a corner, before Steven Gerrard fired the visitors in front from long-range in first half stoppage time.
Owen then scored twice more in 18 minutes after the interval to complete his hat-trick before his strike-partner, Emile Heskey, secured a famous 5-1 victory at Olympiastadion.
That is the only time since a 6-3 England victory in 1938 that Germany have conceded 5+ on home soil.
It’s also one of just two home qualification defeats they’ve suffered since 1985, the other was against North Macedonia in March of this year.
England would go onto top the qualifying group, thanks to David Beckham’s famous free-kick against Greece, with Germany dropping into the play-off where they’d hammer Ukraine.
This win in Munich, of course, led to expectations ahead of the World Cup skyrocketing.
However, England bowed out in the quarter-finals, losing 2-1 to Brazil, with Germany getting all the way to the final, also losing out to the Brazilians.
Despite only being a qualifier, this is looked back on fondly as one of England’s best ever victories which possibly says something about their general tournament performances.
5: World Cup 1970 Quarter-Final: West Germany 3-2 England
These two nations met outside of England or Germany for the first time in 1970 at Estadio León at the World Cup in Mexico.
Over half a century ago, England made the long voyage west as defending World Cup champions, looking to return home with the trophy they’d left with.
Despite losing to the favourites Brazil in the group stages, wins over Romania and Czechoslovakia in Guadalajara had seen them through to the knockout stages.
West Germany meantime topped Group 4 with maximum points, beating Morocco, Bulgaria and Peru.
So, this set up a huge last eight clash in León: a repeat of the final from four years earlier.
England raced into a 2-0 lead, first Alan Mullery tapping in from close-range before Martin Peters doubled their advantage just after half time.
But, Franz Beckenbauer got the Germans back in it shortly after, dribbling past Mullery before firing low under Peter Bonetti.
Then, Uwe Seeler equalised late on, thereby forcing extra time, with the greatest striker of his generation, Gerd Müller, snatched a winner to send the Germans through.
Despite the fact Germany lost to Italy in the semi-finals just three days later, this was a significant moment.
First, England’s reign as world champions was over and, in contrast, this was just the start of German’s assent to becoming the best team in the planet.
In the subsequent decade, they won the 1974 World Cup, on home soil, whilst reaching three successive European Championship Finals, winning the competition in 1972 and 1980.
This meeting in Mexico would prove to be the begging of Germany’s domination, not only of this rivalry, but of international football.
4: World Cup 2010 Round of 16: Germany 4-1 England
Fast forward 40 years and these two old foes would meet again in the World Cup’s first knockout round.
Going into South Africa 2010, England were in crisis mode having failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
This promoted the FA to hire Fabio Capello as Head Coach, a man who’d won 15 major honours as a manager including the Champions League and seven Scudettos.
Germany meanwhile were the nearly team having lost in the semi-finals of their home World Cup in 2006 and then in the final of the European Championships.
In the 2010 group stages, England barely staggered through, drawing with the United States and Algeria before narrowly beating Slovenia; Jermain Defoe with the only goal in Port Elizabeth.
As group winners, the U.S. would play Ghana while the Group C runners-up faced Group D winners Germany.
Die Mannschaft hammered Australia 4-0 and edged out Ghana 1-0 either side of a shock 1-0 reverse against Serbia to advance.
So, then came this eagerly anticipated match-up in Bloemfontein.
It didn’t start well for England when, in the 20th minute, Manuel Neuer’s long punt forward bounced over everybody and Miroslav Klose slotted home.
Lukas Podolski then doubled their lead before, just moments later, Matt Upson’s towering header got England back into the tie.
Then came the controversial moment.
The ball sat up for Frank Lampard who hit it sweetly, the ball his the crossbar and bounced three of four yards over the line.
However, Uruguayan official Mauricio Espinosa did not flag and the goal was not awarded.
This moment would, almost single-handily, lead to the introduction of goal-line technology, first used in the Premier League in 2013.
Germany would go onto win 4-1, Thomas Müller with a quick-fire brace, the first set up by Bastian Schweinsteiger before Mesut Özil put it on a plate for him.
Of course, the final scoreline was resounding but who knows what the outcome would’ve been if England had pulled it back to 2-2 just minutes before half time.
Germany would go onto hammer Argentina 4-0 in the quarter-finals before losing out to Spain in the semis.
But, it’s controversial incidents like this one that just add fuel to the fire of this already hotly contested rivalry.
3: World Cup 1990 Semi-Final: West Germany 1-1 England
Italia ’90 was the tournament when England fans fell in love with football again.
In the 1980s, English football had been tarnished by hooliganism which had ultimately seen English clubs banned from UEFA club competition for six years following the Heysel disaster.
On the pitch, the national team failed to make much of a splash either, only winning six of 16 matches at World Cups or Euros in the ’80s, not even qualifying for Euro ’84.
Italia ’90 though was different.
Bobby Robson’s side topped Group F, above Republic of Ireland, Netherlands and Egypt, before seeing off Belgium and then Cameroon in the knockout phase.
Lying in wait in the semi-finals: the Germans.
Franz Beckenbauer’s side had overcome Yugoslavia, Colombia, United Arab Emirates, bitter rivals Netherlands and then Czechoslovakia to reach the last four.
Die Mannschaft were looking for their third World Cup title, after 1954 and 1974, having lost in the previous two finals, to Italy in ’82 and Argentina in ’86.
Despite this, England were supremely confident going into their meeting at Stadio delle Alpi: Argentina awaited the winners having beaten Italy on penalties this night before.
It was West Germany though who took the lead on the hour mark through Andreas Brehme; Olaf Thon rolling a free-kick to him and the shot looping over Peter Shilton after deflecting off Paul Parker.
But, just ten minutes from the end, England snatched extra time when Gary Lineker pounced on the loose ball in the penalty area.
The match went to a penalty shootout, in which only Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missed; the former’s effort was parried by Bodo Illgner with the latter hitting it high over the bar.
England were out and Germany would go onto lift the World Cup, beating Argentina in Rome four days later.
The Three Lions have since been involved in a further seven World Cup or Euros penalty shootouts, only beating Spain in 1996 and Colombia in 2018.
Perhaps, Tuesday’s Euro 2020 round of 16 meeting of these two will go to penalties too?
England fans will certainly hope not.
2: World Cup Final 1966: England 4-2 West Germany
It doesn’t get much bigger than winning the World Cup, particularly to do so on home soil.
Just eight countries have won the FIFA World Cup with six of them doing so at home at some point; Brazil and Spain the exceptions.
This, of course, includes England’s only triumph 55 summers ago.
Back in 1966, England hosted a major international football tournament for the very first time and, as a result, the home side were fully expected to do well.
Sir Alf Ramsey’s side topped Group 1 without even conceding a goal, drawing 0-0 with Uruguay before beating Mexico and France, both 2-0.
The only other time the Three Lions have not conceded a goal in a group stage was at Euro 2020: perhaps a sign football really is coming home?
Well, back when it actually did in 1966, England edged out Argentina in the quarter-finals and the Portugal in the last four; talisman Sir Bobby Charlton with a brace in the latter.
This team were now just one game away from glory but, as would be the case for decades to come, the Germans stood in their way.
The 1966 World Cup Final was an emotional affair, taking place just 21 years after the end of World War II with many parts of Europe only now recovering fully from six years of conflict.
Now, the English and the Germans were doing battle in a more civilised manor in front of 97,000 inside Wembley.
Helmut Haller put the away side in front with Geoff Hurst equalising shortly after.
Martin Peters then thought he’d won it late on but Wolfgang Weber snatched an equaliser in the final minute of normal time.
Hurst then put England back in front when the ball was, controversially, adjudged to be over the line before sealing the win with the last kick of the match.
This led to Kenneth Wolstenholme’s iconic commentary for the BBC “Here comes Hurst. He’s got… some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now! It’s four!
This final remains the most watched TV event in British history at over 32 million, closely followed by the Funeral of Princess Diana.
The only event in the top eight from the last 24 years is Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcing the first COVID-19 lockdown; a slightly less joyous occasion.
England won the World Cup and Wembley and the boys of 66 are still revered today, thanks in part to the fact that remains England’s only major silverware.
Will the class of 2021 go down in history in the same way?
1: European Championship 1996 Semi-Final: Germany 1-1 England
It’s hard to argue that any other game is bigger than a World Cup Final.
However, for many, the summer football should’ve come home remains bigger than when it actually did 30 years earlier.
At Euro ’96, England hosted a tournament for the first time in 30 years and, after Italia ’90, fans were in love with the team again.
The hosts started the tournament slowly, drawing with with Switzerland, before beating the old enemy Scotland and hammering Netherlands 4-1 to top Group A.
In the quarter-finals, after a 0-0 draw with Spain, England won a penalty shootout for the first time.
The highlight was Stuart Pearce drilling his spot-kick past Andoni Zubizarreta, thereby ‘banishing the ghost’ of having missed in 1990.
So, once again, Germany stood in their way in the semi-finals after they’d overcome Czech Republic, Italy, Russia and then Croatia.
Alan Shearer put England in front after just three minutes, his fifth in as many games, before Stefan Kuntz levelled things up shortly after.
Paul Gascoigne came agonisingly close to winning it right at the end, millimetres away from a golden goal in extra time.
But, just as was the case six years earlier, it finished 1-1 and went to a penalty shootout.
The first ten penalties were all confidently dispatched but centre-back Gareth Southgate saw his tame effort easily saved by Andreas Köpke.
Andreas Möller then subsequently fired high past David Seaman to send the Germans through to the final which they would win against Czech Republic.
In many ways, football did come home in 1996 but, as is often the case, the actual silverware ended up in German hands.
This summer, for the first time since then, a major international final will take place at Wembley with the semi-finals also to be staged there.
Surely, no one more than current England Head Coach Southgate, the villain of 1996, would love to avenge that misery by lifting silverware on 11 July this summer.
To do so, his side will have to beat the old nemesis, this time in the first knockout round.
Will this time be England’s time?
As will have become apparent, it’s Germany who very much have had the upper hand in this head-to-head matchup, since the World Cup Final of 1966.
As Gary Lineker puts it: ” football is a simple game; 22 men kick a ball around for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win”.
England would absolutely love to change that and, with the draw wide open for the winner of this round of 16 tie, it’s all to play for.
Wherever you are in the world, tune in on Tuesday to see who will win at Wembley.
It should be another classic.