If you believe everything you read in the English tabloid press, England vs Germany in a football match is the most important thing ever and anything but a win is a disaster that demands a public enquiry.
While England seems obsessed with Germany, thanks to some high profile defeats, German fans are more likely to name the Netherlands – due to geographical and historical reasons – and Italy – as the two nations are the most successful in European football – as their biggest rivals.
Regardless, the supposed rivalry between the two nations runs deep thanks to England’s obsession with two wars that happened decades before any of us were born. There have been numerous famous games between the two teams that stretch back for decades and many have ended in heartache for England and jubilation for Germany.
The first official game between the two countries was a friendly that took place way back in 1930 and ended 3-3. There were six more friendlies between the two teams before their first competitive game which just happened to be the 1966 World Cup final.
Remarkably England was undefeated against Germany in this period but, since then, it’s been more misses than hits for England against Die Mannschaft. 24 games between the two teams have come and gone since 1966 and England have won just six of them.
Here, we take a quick trip down memory lane to remember some of the most iconic moments between England and Germany over the decades:
1966: England beat West Germany to win the World Cup
There really isn’t much more than can be said about this game, which is etched into the mind of every English football fan from birth. Geoff Hurst, ‘The Russian Linesman,’ ‘They Think It’s All Over’, Bobby Moore, ‘Three Lions on our shirt’ and all that...Still, must have been a pretty special thing to have witnessed before all the cynicism set it.
1970: West Germany come from 2-0 down to beat England at the World Cup
This is possibly where things started to go wrong for the England team. With many of the top stars from the 1966 team still in the squad, England was, again, amongst the favourites and had comfortably progressed through the group stage despite an iconic 1-0 loss to Brazil. Things were going well in the quarter-finals for England who were 2-0 up after 49 minutes and looked in control. That soon went awry when German’s iconic Franz Beckenbauer was unleashed following a couple of questionable England substitutions and, before you knew, it was 2-2. After a Geoff Hurst goal was controversially ruled out, Germany Gerd Muller scored to make it 3-2 to West Germany and bring an end to England’s summer in Mexico.
1990 - Gazza’s tears
Decades went by before the next notable England v Germany match and the next instalment on this list is possibly the most well-known match between the two nations for several reasons. 23-year-old Paul Gascoigne was still something of an untapped commodity when he was selected by Bobby Robson for the tournament but soon became the player of the competition and England’s most influential player. However, temperament and composure was never Gazza’s strong suit and after a rash challenge in extra time he was booked. This meant that if England would have won the match he would have missed the final. A grimace quickly formed on Gascoigne’s face and tears were quickly welling up in his eyelids. Gary Lineker’s concerned look to the bench said it all. Cruelly, this was the last time that Gazza would ever play at this or any World Cup.
1990 - Pearce and Waddle miss penalties
Perhaps ironically Gazza’s emotions didn’t count for anything as England wouldn’t reach the final anyway. Back in 1990, a penalty shootout was new territory for England but both fans and players would soon learn that these aren’t easy or enjoyable ways to decide games of football. After scoring their first three penalties, things went awry after Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle both missed from the spot in dramatic fashion. West Germany, meanwhile, scored all four of theirs.
1996 - Gazza’s miss
If England fans thought things were bad in 1990 then things were going to get a whole lot worse in 1996. Euro 96 is now a part of 90s folklore right up there with Britpop and the Spice Girls. It was a tournament that captured the hearts and minds of the nation, mostly because it was held in England but also because the team was actually starting to win matches again after a few barren years following 1990. However, despite the optimism ,normality soon resumed from a football perspective and England once again failed to overcome Germany in a semi-final. The most agonising part of this game was a chance that fell to Gascoigne in extra time which seemed to evade him by millimetres. Had he have scored England would have won on the Golden Goal rule and progressed to the final – but there was still a chance to win the match...
1996 - Southgate’s penalty miss
After 1966, there is a case to say that this is the most repeated moment in the history of the England team. Much like 1990 the semi-final, the game between the two teams was to be decided by penalties and, much like six years previous, the first lot of penalties were clinical. With the shootout in sudden death, the unlikely figure of Gareth Southgate bravely stepped forward to take a penalty. You all know what happens next. Southgate misses and is unfairly mocked for years following his failure. Andreas Moller scored the next penalty which sent Germany to the final which they inevitably won. Still, at least Southgate got a Pizza Hut commercial out of it.
2000 - Shearer breaks England’s Germany hoodoo
Euro 2000 was not a happy tournament for either Germany or England as both went home in the group stages following disappointing performances. Perhaps the only happy memory was from an England perspective as they managed to beat Germany at a major tournament for the first time since 1966 thanks to a powerful Alan Shearer header. This was arguably the only highlight from an otherwise forgettable game.
Less Euro '96 on penalties ❌
Less World Cup 2010 'ghost goal' ❌
More Euro 2000 @alanshearer 🙏
Watch and listen to… https://t.co/voMzLYwC3N
2000 - Dietmar Hamann scores the last goal at old Wembley Stadium
The closure of the old Wembley Stadium to make way for the more modern complex that we see today was the end of an era for the England team as newer faces like David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Michael Owen were finally beginning to establish themselves in the first team. Fittingly the final game in that old stadium was set to be Germany in a 2002 World Cup qualifier. The conditions for the game were dreadful as the rain pelted down and the match wasn’t much better either. In fact, it was decided by just one goal, a crafty free-kick from Dietmar Hamann that caught out David Seaman. England manager Kevin Keegan immediately resigned after the poor performance (reportedly while on the toilet). A bad day all around for England – but a win in the final game at the old Wembley and a manager resignation? Surely it doesn’t get much better than that for Germany? Perhaps not. Interestingly, Hamann, who played for Liverpool at the time, said that years later he regretted the goal as Keegan was one of his heroes when he played for his boyhood club of Hamburg.
2001 - Germany 1 - 5 England
Maybe the best England performance ever? If the loss at the old Wembley felt more like a funeral, the return leg in Munich’s Olympiastadion was definitely a party and raucous one at that. New England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson became an instant cult hero after masterminding this emphatic win over Germany in their own backyard. Ultimately the result didn’t beckon in a new golden era for the England team and Germany, although depleted in talent, still managed to make the 2002 World Cup final. That being said, it is still a memorable moment for many England fans and a result that has arguably never been topped since.
2010 - Frank Lampard’s controversial disallowed goal as Germany tear England apart
Despite what the newspapers were saying, England’s 2010 team was not a vintage crop. Full of ageing faces who had never really reached their apex for England and saddled with Fabio Capello’s laboured tactics, England stumbled through the group stages in South Africa. Germany, in contrast, was a much younger, much more vibrant team featuring the prodigal talents of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Manuel Neuer. They deservedly put England to the sword beating the Three Lions 4-1 in Bloemfontein. There is a belief that things could have been different if Frank Lampard’s perfectly good goal was allowed but it wasn’t meant to be, no matter how much Mark Lawrenson protested.
2015 - England beat Germany to finish third at the Women’s World Cup.
In contrast to their male counterparts, England’s women’s team have faired much better at major tournaments. The Lionesses have managed to reach the semi-finals at each of the last two World Cups and even manage to finish third in 2015, something the men’s team has never done. Their 1-0 third-place playoff win over Germany in Edmonton might not have been memorable for action on the pitch but you try telling that to the players who took part that day. Fara Williams’ penalty winner must have felt incredible.
2021 - England beat Germany at Wembley
After a shaky start in which the Germans dominated and the sides were goalless at the half, the introduction of Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish helped break the deadlock and allowed Sterling to open the scoring from close range, his third of the tournament. Kane, who had struggled to make an impact during the game, then scored shortly after with a header to make it 2-0. It sent England fans wild in the UK, buoying a nation ground down by lockdowns and Covid restrictions with something to finally shout about.