As England visit Germany tonight it is time to use some material from past match reports to describe the match in 2016 at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
During Euro 1996 the Daily Mirror led the charge against foreign football teams with their jingoistic, almost xenophobic coverage of the tournament. At the time there was outrage and the attempt by Pierce Morgan to see this kind of coverage as humourous. It did not work. However, four years later, England and Germany met again at the Euro 2000. This time, the same paper really proved to be cheeky and not to take itself too seriously when it wrote:
England play Germany tonight. In the past this paper has had some problems covering this match. There won’t be any references to past conflicts. Kick-off is 19:45 – time for victory, boys!
It could not get better than that!
The game in 2016 was lacking purpose, highlighting the change of international friendlies in status. With club football now dominating the international schedule, the World Cup and the continental championship, too have both lost status but not their prestige.
The German team looked good on paper and there were fears in England that they were in for a thumping. That did not happen. England pressed early, passed well and looked as though they might get the better of the world champions in Berlin. However, it was Germany to score a regular goal that was not given due to an apparent offside position of Mario Gomez the scorer.
It seems to be a continuous saga! Goals not given that should have stood or vice versa. There is – of course – Geoff Hurt’s goal in 1966 when the linesman and the referee agreed to give a goal when the ball had actually not crossed the line. The German TV commentator Rudi Michel simply stated
There will be discussions about this!
Little did he know how accurate this observation was! Almost everytime England play Germany this goal has got a mention. So much so, that this quote should be sufficient. Siggi Held, who played that day was not so much fussed by the fact whether the ball was behind the line or not. Rather, it is the decision by the linesman that still perplexes him, even now 50 years later!
England however, always took the comfort of relying on the referee’s decision. It is best described in Jake Arnott’s novel ‘He kills Coppers.’
‘That was never in’, Jimmy (a Scot) mutters.
‘It does look a bit dodgy’, agrees Billy.
‘Yeah, but it doesn’t matter now dies it?’ Stan with a stupid grin on his face. ‘The ref’s given it, hasn’t he?’
This thread of discussion re-appeared also in 1996 when England and Germany played once more at Wembley in a tournament. Of course, the goal was still matter for discussions. The German tabloid Bild asked the English
‘Why are you only people who still think the Wembley goal (in the 1966 World Cup Final) went in?’
The reply by the Daily Express was simple and straight forward:
‘As for THAT GOAL, we simply abided by the referee’s decision.’
Germany got their goal just before half-time. A goal-kick from England’s Butland found its way only to the half-way line where the team built up again quickly. It took three passes and the ball was with Toni Kroos. He accelerated and was not attacked or closed down. His shot was fast and precise and left the keeper chasing air. It was deserved at the time, though Germany failed to convince. After that the keeper was substituted with an injury and a few minutes later, it was half-time.
In 1954 West-Germany came to England as world champions. The team that won the World Cup against the odds in Berne in July was in the following months beleaguered with injuries. It was the first time for both teams to play each other again after the war. The last game was in 1938. The Times put it best:
‘The appearance of Germany’s international football side at Wembley Stadium this afternoon adds its bit to Anglo-German relations … If the presence of 12000 or more Germans transplanted across the Channel to the Wembley terraces, may have no particular import, it at least shows that sport and time can be great healers.’
Having just finished this quote, Germany doubled their lead. A long cross from Khedira found Gomez in the post, near the penalty spot. His header was powerful and well placed so that Forster had no chance. The ease with which the English defence was split, was worrying! It highlights that England tend to doze off at times.
The goal by Gomez livened up the game! A corner for England was not defended too well by the Germans. The clearance was too short. Harry Kane, although with his back to goal, managed to turn and stun two defenders. His low shot left Manuel Neuer in goal with no chance. Game on!
And how much it was on! On came Jamie Vardy and within 5 minutes England were level. A cross from Kyle from the right and Vardy’s heel left Neuer no chance! It was a superb goal and at that time, well deserved. England stretched the world champions, who clearly have lost their cohesion and no plan b. Germany will rue not having scored more in the first half or during the periods when they pressed England onto the back foot.
After their equalizer, it was only England playing and Germany hanging in. England even missed the chance to make it three but Delly Alli missed the open goal! With 90 minutes gone, England scored again, extending their record in friendlies this time Dyer from another corner. A strong header made it 3-2. That was it.
The series of friendlies between England and Germany have a long history. Out of 16 friendlies so far since 1930, England have won 10 matches, drawing 2, losing only 4. It is the big games that Germany has won, except 1966.
In the end, England fully deserved to win. They showed more hunger, were more aggressive where it mattered. Germany will need to work on defending set pieces and need to get into tournament gear.