History lesson: England vs Germany World Cup memories

June 27, 2010

By the time you read this, the latest chapter in the often acrimonious history of England versus Germany fixtures will likely be over.‚ If you‚ live outside of England or Germany and, therefore, do not have these committed to memory, here are the key historical World Cup moments: 1966 - World Cup Final - England 4 West Germany 2 Geoff Hurst remains the only person to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final, but it was his second goal, the one that put England 3-2 up in extra time following a late German equalizing goal to make it 2-2 in regulation, that remains controversial. That's right -- remains controversial, 44 years after it happened! Hurst's shot hit the crossbar, bounced down behind the goal keeper and out again. Did the ball cross the line? This is still hotly debated. A German colleague of mine recently sent me an academic mathematical analysis that reviewed the old news reels of Hurst's goal and calculated the camera angles, position of lines on the field, the size and speed of the ball after Hurst's shot, etc. After a lot of equations, Greek letters, x's, y's and z's, they decided that at least 6cm (3 inches) of the ball could not have crossed the line and, as a result, it should not have been a goal. The whole ball has to cross the line for it to be a goal. Famously, an Armenian linesman awarded England the goal that day in 1966. Hurst completed his hat-trick in the final minute when the English TV announcer memorably intoned: "Some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over..." and then as Hurst's shot flew into the German goal... "it is now!" You can watch it here: But when the action is replayed using lego players, the ball clearly crosses the line. 1970 - World Cup Quarter Final - England 2 West Germany 3 England cruised into a 2-0 lead and with 30 minutes left looked set for the semi-final. However, they were playing back-up goal keeper Peter Bonetti after regular starter Gordon Banks had fallen ill. In what has since become typical English goalkeeping fashion, Bonetti's error on Beckenbauer's shot allowed the Germans to score and then a second took the game into extra time, when West Germany's lethal striker Gerd Muller got the winner. Well before then, with England leading 2-1, Manchester United legend and England's talisman Bobby Charlton had been substituted. He had been the player who set the tempo for England and controlled the flow of the match. On the flight home from Mexico following the 3-2 defeat Charlton told officials he would not play for England again. The match highlights are here: These players needed more work on their goal celebrations! 1982 -- World Cup Second Round Group Game - England 0 West Germany 0 This game seems to have drifted off into the ether of unreality. Did it ever happen? No-one ever talks about it. Maybe it was just too dull. I didn't bother looking for highlights for this one! 1990 -- World Cup Semi-Final - England 1 West Germany 1 (West Germany won 4-3 on penalties) This is the game that some have suggested revitalized soccer in England following a decade of hooligan violence. England had scraped into the last-16 after drawing their opening 2 games 1-1 and 0-0 and then managing a 1-0 win in their final match (sound familiar?). A 119th minute David Platt volley then beat Belgium 1-0 and some clumsy defending by Cameroon gifted England 2 penalties and a 3-2 quarter-final win. In a tense semi-final, West Germany took the lead on the hour, with Brehme's deflected shot drifting into the English net as a flailing goalkeeper tried desperately to keep it out, only for England to equalize with 10 minutes to go. During the match England's young star of the tournament, Paul Gascoigne, was given a yellow card which meant that he would miss the final if England got there. In the moments following the booking, millions watched him cry. It wouldn't matter though because as the German players scored their penalties one by one, first Stuart Pearce (a normally reliable penalty taker) and then Chris Waddle (whose penalty was hit so high, people are still wondering if the ball's come back down yet) missed for England. You can see the game here: Actually, watching it again, I wonder if cutting off his trademark mullet meant that Waddle was unbalanced as he hit that penalty kick.... There have been, of course, other significant games between England and (West) Germany, but not in the World Cup. Whenever this fixture occurs, English tabloid newspapers revert to the juvenile and bombastic anti-German discourse of the 1940s, the most odious England "fans" sing songs with lines like "Two World Wars and One World Cup" and hum the theme tune to the WW2 film "Dambusters," and German political officials complain to the British government about the tone and language being used to denigrate Germany and its people who are, after all, major allies of the English in the European Union, NATO and the United Nations. In 2010, will England's stars like Rooney and Lampard get their act together on the field and win? Or will Germany's youthful midfield will have too much pace for England? If England do win, it sets up another potential grudge match against Argentina (should they beat Mexico), but it is always probable that England will lose out to Germany once again. After all, it was the English striker Gary Lineker, who scored in the 1990 semi-final, that once said "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win."
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