England versus Germany rates as one of the great fixtures in international football, with a rich treasure trove of memories and anecdotes to match. You only have to mention a year - 1966, 1990, 1996, 2001 and now 2010 – and aficionados can name an unforgettable fact or incident: a disputed goal at Wembley in 1966, dramatic penalty shoot-outs in the 1990 FIFA World Cup™ and UEFA EURO 1996 semi-finals, and a match full of controversy and goals in South Africa last summer.
Another chapter in the history of the long-running rivalry will be written next Monday, when the two countries’ most promising juniors meet in the last eight at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011. "It's special, because it’s a meeting between two of the great footballing nations. I’m delighted on a personal level too, because I spent five years as a player in England,” remarked Germany coach Steffen Freund, a regular for north London outfit Tottenham Hotspur from 1998 to 2003.
Second meeting at U-17 level
The senior Germany and England teams have crossed swords 32 times, England winning 15 to Germany’s 11, with six draws. The Three Lions have outscored their rivals too, by 67 goals to 41. The U-17 juniors previously met at a FIFA World Cup in Korea four years ago, also at the quarter-final stage, where Germany went on to win 4-1 after a goalless first half.
The junior Mannschaft’s second-half spree featured goals from Sebastian Rudy (50), Richard Sukuta-Pasu (56), Dennis Dowidat (74) and Toni Kroos (87), who would go on to win the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. Rhys Murphy had briefly given England hope after 65 minutes. "We’re completely shattered to have lost,” the Three Lions goalscorer lamented, but opposing boss Heiko Herrlich was delighted with his players: "I'd just like to say how satisfied I am with the team we've put together, not just on the pitch but off it too. It's like a machine in which all the gears work perfectly."
The Germans went on to lose 3-1 to Nigeria in the last four, but beat Ghana 2-1 in the penultimate match of the tournament and claimed the bronze medal.
Freund has since taken over the German juniors, but John Peacock is still at the England helm. "Naturally it hurts to lose a game like this. Games between England and Germany are always special and it's always painful to go out at this stage of a competition,” the long-serving manager said four years ago.
With spooky inevitability, the chance for revenge has now come up again. "We always seem to meet Germany in these kinds of competitions,” Peacock stated, “and we lost to them in 2007, so I hope this time it can be different. England-Germany games are always very close and tight games. We will be ready as these games are always classics."
Date to remember
As a curious aside, the Estadio Morelos clash takes place on 4 July. The fourth of July, best known as Independence Day in the USA, happens also to be a much-revered date in German footballing history. If the U-17 side does make it to the last four, it will add to a stock of memorable results achieved by famous Mannschaften of the past.
The FIFA World Cup was the setting on each occasion: on 4 July 1954, Germany became world champions for the first time with a 3-2 victory over Hungary in Berne; and 4 July 1990 was the day of their shoot-out victory over England in the Italia 90 semi-finals.
However, the junior Three Lions need not abandon hope just yet, as Germany’s painful 2-0 defeat to Italy at the 2006 FIFA World Cup on home soil also took place on – you guessed it - 4 July. The same outcome would suit the youngest generation of England hopefuls just fine when they take on their old rivals on 4 July 2011.