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

Updated on September 15, 2019
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 have elapsed since two European nations began a rivalry that evolved into one of the most essential and spirited rivalries not just in Europe, but worldwide. This rivalry has been periods of success that both nations have enjoyed. For all the glamour and controversy, the England-Germany rivalry has become a phenomenon that has whetted fans' appetites everywhere.

Still, from the 30 matches contested, each game has told a story; some, as history would indicate, 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 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. 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 offensive play.

Hoffman was sent off in that 4-1 defeat and he, along with Hans Kalb, served one-year suspensions by Germany's football governing body. Two years later, Hoffman suffered a severe right ear injury 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 was Germany's bus broke down as it headed toward the stadium and so player arrived at Deutsches Stadion via taxi cabs.

Still, despite all this, Hoffman made history; previously, no player outside the Home Nations every recorded a hat trick. Hoffman'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 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. The game, 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 an opportunity for Germany to promote Nazi propaganda with 10,000 Germans attended 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, which ended with England winning 6-3, saw England displaying respect to Germany with its players performing the Nazi salute. A newspaper article from 2001 revealed 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 handed West Germany its first loss ever at Frankenstadion in Nürnberg.

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 those players was West Ham United player Geoff Hurst.
Hurst started played in only three matches 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. West Germany scored first the 12th minute 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 as to where the shot 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 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. The victory for England also featured one of the nation's more popular chants: Two World Wars and One World Cup.

"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. | Source

The Seminal Moment of the 1990 World Cup

West Germany Emerges Onto the World Scene

England became World Cup champions, but it would not be long before West Germany finally closed the gap. It happened 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, with West Germany winning 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. On that date, 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 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 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, the scorer of two penalties to knock out Cameroon m20 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 his goal 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 on its first seven attempts, Bodo Illgner saved Stuart Pearce's effort. 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 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 happened 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 an excellent tournament with his fourth goal to give Germany the competition following the 2-1 victory.

Thirty years after winning the World Cup on home soil, England hosted Germany a 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 0 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 his try to send Germany to the final. That penalty loss began a streak of six straight penalty shootout losses at major tournaments for England. It would be another four years before both nations meet again.

England's next match against Germany came at Euro 2000; this meeting was a group stage match contested in Charleroi, Belgium. The game gained notoriety to the point 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?"

However, 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

Classics and Shockers

Seldom do two former World Cup champions meet in the same World Cup qualifying group, but England and Germany would play the most anticipated matches in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. The first meeting occurred on Oct. 7, 2000, and it became 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 became the last 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 sought to do something only Portugal achieved and that is win at Germany in a World Cup qualifier. But Germany had not lost at München's Olympiastadion in 38 years and a victory would grant Germany 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. It was a memorable night for England, but also memorable for German coach Rudi Voller on a personal note: his father having 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 modern stadium, but Germany enjoyed a similar result as it won 2-1.

A year later, England exacted revenge. 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; the result became Germany's first loss at Berlin's Olympiastadion in 35 years.

The 2008 victory maintained momentum as England reached the 2010 FIFA World Cup; yet England needed a win over Slovenia to reach the round of 16. But once there, England received its reward, which happened to be another encounter with Germany at 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 leveled the match at 2-2, but 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 missed call had repercussions. England never recovered as Thomas Müller tallied two goals in four minutes. The 4-1 defeat remains England's severest defeat ever at the World Cup.

2010 World Cup Meeting: Payback for 1966?

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 from Germany's captain Per Mertesacker proved to be the difference as Germany won.

In 2016, 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 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, it was another Tottenham player that 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 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 August 2019, the last meeting between both nations occurred on Nov. 10, 2017, when England and Germany played to a scoreless draw at Wembley Stadium. England featured five players earning their first caps; the most notable would be goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who would guide England to a fourth-place finish nearly eight months later at the 2018 World Cup.

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Antonio Martinez


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        4 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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