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

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

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 finished ahead of Germany in its qualifying group on goal difference.

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 finished ahead of Germany in its qualifying group on goal difference.

Over ninety years have elapsed since two European nations began a rivalry that evolved into one of the most essential and spirited competitions in Europe and worldwide. This rivalry witnessed periods of success that both nations enjoyed. For all the glamour and controversy, the England-Germany rivalry has become a phenomenon that has whetted fans' appetites everywhere.

From the 30 matches contested, each game has told a story. These matches ranged from the games with so much at stake to other games where pride was at stake. Some events became games in their own right, particularly those at stake. As history indicated, others did not always have a positive outcome, especially with some of the rivalry's controversies that first unfolded in the 1930s.

New chapters were added to the England-Germany rivalry upon completion of the third UEFA Nations League, two months before the nations would embark on the 2022 World Cup.

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 Olympiastadion.

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 Olympiastadion.

Redemption Amidst Nervy Times

England and Germany first contested officially on May 10, 1930. For one player, this initial meeting provided an opportunity to overcome redemption during recovery. He first gained fame while scoring a hat trick against Switzerland in 1927. Nevertheless, during the 1928 Summer Olympics, Richard Hoffman and Germany faced Uruguay in a quarterfinal when the scandal unfolded. Despite scoring a late goal, Hoffman could not overcome Uruguay's provocation of offensive play.

Hoffman received a dismissal in that 4-1 defeat, and he, along with Hans Kalb, served one-year suspensions by Germany's football governing body. Hoffman suffered a severe right ear injury two years later during a car accident. He spent most of his playing career with a "bow on his ear," as one physician described the damage. Before the match at Berlin's Deutsches Stadion, Germany's coach Otto Nerz woke up an overslept Hoffmann. Making matters worse for Germany, a bus broke down as it headed toward the stadium, and the players arrived at Deutsches Stadion via taxi cabs.

Still, Hoffman made history by becoming the first player outside the Home Nations to record a hat trick. Hoffman's goals helped Germany overcome deficits of 1-0 and 2-1, with Joe Bradford recording both England goals. Hoffmann's third goal gave Germany a 3-2 lead, and they were on course for 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 game ended 3-3.

Hoffmann was the essential story as many English players surrounded the man nicknamed "King Richard" and wanted his soccer kit and boots. While Hoffman played through his injury, another player suffered a career-ending injury. During the match, Sheffield Wednesday player William Marsden sustained a spinal injury after colliding with teammate Roy Goodall. The devastating injury sidelined Mardsen for good as he never represented England in another game.

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. A 3-0 England victory in which George Camsell scored twice and Cliff Bastin added the third goal was notable not for the scoreline. Preferably, this event enhanced Germany's opportunity to promote Nazi propaganda, with 10,000 Germans attending this event.

In 1938, England embarked on a three-country tour in May at Berlin's Olympiastadion; as was the case in 1935, a victory was without controversy. This game ended with England winning 6-3, seeing England displaying respect to Germany with its players performing the Nazi salute. A newspaper article from 2001 revealed that English players' behavior was "perhaps merely indifferent."

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 in 1956 (at Berlin's Olympiastadion). Terry Paine continued England's unbeaten run; his only goal in a 1965 match at Nürnberg handed West Germany its first loss ever at Frankenstadion.

Nobby Stiles repeated Paine's feat at Wembley Stadium on Feb. 23, 1966. Two players earn their first caps for England, with one being West Ham United player Geoff Hurst. Hurst started in three games during the 1966 World Cup, but the most notable of those three happened to be the World Cup Final on July 30, 1966. This game saw both teams score early goals, with West Germany the first to score after 12 minutes when Helmut Haller took advantage of a mistimed Ray Wilson header.

Hurst tied the game as he headed the ball from a Bobby Moore free-kick down and into the net. As the game remained at 1-1, England took advantage of a set-piece in the 77th minute. Alan Ball launched a shot toward Hurst, which deflected toward Peters. Peters shot the ball to put England up -1. As it stood, England was on course to win the World Cup on home soil.

However, 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 about where the shot deflected Schnellinger was controversial. England's goalkeeper Gordon Banks claimed Schnellinger handled the ball, but the goal stood as replays indicated the ball struck Schnellinger 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 the ball's cross, Hurst had 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. The linesman awarded Hurst the goal, a decision that upset West German players as the event also ushered a new moniker: Wembley-Tor (German: "Wembley goal").

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 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. England's victory also featured one of the nation's more popular chants: Two World Wars and One World Cup.

The Iconic Commentary

"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!"

— Kenneth Wolstenholme, BBC commentator calling Geoff Hurst's third goal in the 1966 World Cup Final

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.

The Seminal Moment of the 1990 World Cup

West Germany Emerges

England became World Cup champions, but West Germany finally closed the gap. In 1968 at Hannover's Niedersachsenstadion, when West Germany, thanks to a Franz Beckenbauer goal, defeated England 1-0. As The Observer's Hugh McIlvanney stated, the 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 on Apr. 29, 1972. This game happened to be a Euro 1972 playoff quarterfinal. West Germany won 3-1 in what one writer described 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, and the results became stepping stones for West Germany winning both Euro 1972 and the 1974 World Cup.

England defeated West Germany in 1975 (2-0) in what remains its last win at Wembley to date. West Germany returned the favor three years later in München's Olympiastadion (2-1). Then, another meeting at the World Cup came in 1982 in Madrid. The 1982 World Cup happened to be the first of two matchups for both nations during that year. A scoreless stalemate in the second round proved essential as West Germany reached the World Cup final. Despite the early exit in the World Cup, England had an impressive 1982 in which its only loss that year coming on Oct. 13, 1982, when Karl-Heinz Rummenigge scored both goals in West Germany's 2-1 victory.

Before the 1986 World Cup, both nations met in a mini-tournament. England's 3-0 victory was only its second victory against West Germany since 1966. In that match, Kerry Dixon scored his first goal for England. A year later, West Germany won in Düsseldorf, a 3-1 friendly triumph where Pierre Littbarski scored twice.
Then came July 4, 1990: the World Cup semifinal, which also marked the final meeting before German reunification. West Germany broke the scoreless deadlock after an hour courtesy of Andreas Brehme. England responded thanks to Gary Lineker, the scorer of two penalties, to knock out Cameroon 20 minutes later. As the match progressed, 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 it to not count due to disallowed because of offsides. 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 in their first seven attempts, Bodo Illgner saved Stuart Pearce's effort. Olaf Thon converted his try for West Germany before Chris Waddle's miss for England sent West Germany to the final and an eventual World Cup.

Action from the 1970 World Cup

Detroit's Litmus Test

After Germany's Reunification

After the 1990 World Cup, a unified Germany appointed Hans Helmer "Berti" Vogts as the new manager to replace Beckenbauer. The winning continued for Germany as Karl-Heinz scored the game's only goal in a 1991 meeting at Wembley.

Two years later, Germany and England met in another mini-tournament - this match having occurred on June 19, 1993, during the US Cup, a precursor to the 1994 World Cup. The game unfolded at Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome (the first soccer match played indoors and on grass). Stefan Effenberg opened the scoring before Platt tied the game. Then, Klinsmann capped off an excellent tournament with his fourth goal to give Germany the competition following the 2-1 victory.

Thirty years after the World Cup, England hosted Euro 1996 and Germany a Euro 1996 semifinal. The host nation began with an emphatic statement, courtesy of Alan Shearer scoring the 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 a combined ten attempts.

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 his try to send Germany to the Euro 1996 Final. That penalty loss began England's streak of six straight penalty shootout losses at major tournaments. England would get a second chance against Germany four years later and once again during a major tournament.

England and Germany met at Euro 2000 in a group stage match in Charleroi, Belgium. The game gained notoriety almost equivalent 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 damaged the rivalry. Shearer scored against Germany again, and England had its first competitive victory against Germany in 1966. The result proved demoralizing for Germany, its leading newspaper Bild running a headline reading: "0-1! Germany weeps. Is it all over?" However, both England and Germany cried at Euro 2000 after losing their respective group stage finales.

Three months later, England cried farewell to an icon.

Germany's Dietmar Hamann (14) and England's Paul Scholes (8) battle for possession during a Euro 2000 match in Charleroi, Belgium. England won the match 1-0, but both nations exited the group stage in that tournament.

Germany's Dietmar Hamann (14) and England's Paul Scholes (8) battle for possession during a Euro 2000 match in Charleroi, Belgium. England won the match 1-0, but both nations exited the group stage in that tournament.

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.

Classics and Shockers

Seldom do former World Cup champions meet in qualifying, but England and Germany did so on the road to the 2002 World Cup. On Oct. 7, 2000, the matchup marked 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 was the final game for England manager Kevin Keegan. When the teams met on Sept. 1, 2001, England had its first foreign manager in Sweden's Sven-Göran Eriksson and a difficult task such that only one nation had won an away World Cup qualifier in Germany. More impressive was that Germany had not lost at München's Olympiastadion in 38 years, and victory would seal Germany's qualification to the World Cup.

Germany produced the first goal after six minutes, thanks to Carsten Jancker. England needed a win to prevent 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 his first goal for England.

England pressed forward, and their attacking play paid dividends as Owen scored twice to complete his hat-trick. At the last moment, Emile Heskey capped off England's best night. The 5-1 victory proved crucial in England qualifying directly ahead of Germany on goal difference for an automatic berth at the 2002 World Cup.
History unfolded again on Aug. 22, 2007, 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 modern stadium, but Germany had a similar result, winning 2-1.

A year later, England exacted revenge historically. Matthew Upson scored his first goal for England before Patrick Helmes tied the match for Germany. John Terry's winning goal yielded England a 2-1 victory, handing Germany's first loss at Berlin's Olympiastadion in 35 years.

The 2008 victory maintained momentum as England qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Germany and England met again, this time at Bloemfontein's Free State Stadium. Germany impressed early and went up 2-0 on Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski's goals before Upson scored in the 37th minute. Frank Lampard shot a ball that struck the crossbar's underside two minutes later, crossing over the white line.

That goal should have leveled the match, but the referee never allowed the goal. Germany continued playing after Manuel Neuer recovered the ball. After four minutes, Thomas Müller tallied two goals; England never recovered and ultimately suffered its worst defeat at a World Cup, losing 4-1.

Miracle at München

2010 World Cup Meeting: Payback for 1966?

After South Africa: High Stakes and Anticpation

In 2013, England celebrated the Football Association's 150th anniversary, the oldest known organization globally. England's match against Germany came one month after qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A goal in the 39th minute from Germany's captain Per Mertesacker proved the difference as Germany won.

In 2016, England played most of the match with England's goalkeeper Jack Butland after an ankle injury while receiving a back pass. Germany's Toni Kroos capitalized right before halftime. Then with 57 minutes elapsed, 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 scored his first goal for England three minutes after coming on as a substitute.

With the match in stoppage time, another Tottenham player completed the comeback. 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 lone goal in the 67th minute at Dortmund's Westfalenstadion. That was not the story as controversy struck this match again. Instead, reports indicated that some England supporters booed during Germany's national anthem and even referenced World War II.

On Nov. 10, 2017, England and Germany played to a scoreless draw at Wembley Stadium. England featured five players earning their first caps; the most notable player was goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who would guide England to a fourth-place finish nearly eight months later at the 2018 World Cup. Both nations met again less than four years later, but the stakes were enormous.

The fight for Continental Glory Continues

After the COVID-19 pandemic delayed Euro 2020, England and Germany were expected to compete for continental glory. Nevertheless, the nations met earlier than expected in the Round of 16, with England topping its group and hosting Germany, who finished second in its group and had been minutes away from an early elimination in the tournament's Group of Death.

England had hoped for something significant, as it had been 55 years since England defeated Germany in a knockout match. More importantly, the elimination match also marked England's 300th match contested at Wembley Stadium. England won its group primarily on its defense, having not allowed a goal, but its offense would need to make the difference.

Just as he provided the lone goals with victories against Croatia and the Czech Republic, Raheem Sterling had again put England ahead after 75 minutes. Captain Harry Kane, who led all scorers with 12 goals during the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, doubled the lead late in the match, and the 2-0 result ended German manager Joachim Löw's tenure as the national team coach.

The result was England's first EURO knockout victory in regulation in 53 years, and England would ride this momentum to the final, losing in a penalty shootout to Italy on July 11, 2021.

Five months later, a possibility for England and Germany to meet in a major qualifying campaign would surface. That was because England finished third in its UEFA Nations League Group (tied for second with Denmark but lost on a head-to-head tiebreaker), while Germany slipped to second place after losing 6-0 to Spain in its group stage finale in 2020.

Both nations would be drawn in the same group, along with Hungary and Italy, in Group A3 of the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League. When the nations met on June 7, 2022, England played in München for the first time since the famous 5-1 World Cup qualifying victory at Olympiastadion. Once again, Germany scored the opening goal, with Nico Schottlerbeck finding Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Jonas Hoffman, who scored his third goal for Germany. Schlotterbeck was also part of another play come 84 minutes when a clumsy challenge on Kane inside the penalty box meant a penalty kick would be awarded. Kane's 50th goal salvaged what would be a 1-1 draw.

When the nations met again on Sept. 26, 2022, there would be nothing to play for, as England's 1-0 loss to Italy three days earlier meant relegation to League B for England. Still, despite the disappointment, England came from behind in one of the more entertaining matches. Just as he did in June, Kane scored a penalty kick, and the 83rd-minute goal saw England erase a 2-0 deficit to go up 3-2. Having scored Germany's second goal, Kai Havertz capitalized on a goalkeeper blunder by Nick Pope in the 87th minute, and the 3-3 result meant that England went winless for six straight matches for the first time in 29 years.

Whether England and Germany viewed each other as their main rival could be debated. There is no debate that England and Germany have made this one of football's best rivalries. After a goalless first half, the nations combined for six goals for the rest of the game.

England vs Germany: Appendix

© 2014 Antonio Martinez


Ghaelach on December 26, 2014:

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.