[GERMANY-ENGLAND] This World Cup's first game between traditional rivals takes place on Sunday when Germany faces England. Their past clashes have delivered classic games and ridiculous hype.
The rivalry began in earnest at the 1966 World Cup in England. The host was headed to a 2-1 win when Wolfgang Weber equalized with 30 seconds left. England took a 3-2 overtime lead with the most controversial goal in World Cup final history. Only Soviet linesman Tofik Bakhramov seemed to have seen Geoff Hurst’s shot go over the goal line after hitting the crossbar. With time running out, Hurst made it 4-2.
The Germans avenged the loss four years later at the World Cup in Mexico when they overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat England 3-2 in a game famous for Uwe Seeler heading the ball backward over goalkeeper Peter Bonetti and England coach Alf Ramsey subbing out Bobby Charlton with a 2-1 lead.
England and West Germany would meet twice more in a World Cup: an uneventful scoreless tie in 1982, and a dramatic penalty-kick shootout win by the Germans in the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup after a 1-1 tie. The photo of Paul Gascoigne with streaming tears reemerges with every subsequent Germany-England game.
Some of the rivalry’s greatest battles have been in the European Championship. Against what is widely considered the Germans’ best team ever, England fell, 3-1, at Wembley in the quarterfinals of Euro ’72 and the Germans went on to lift the trophy.
The Germans beat England on PKs in the semifinals of the England-hosted 1996 European Championship, which the Germans also won.
Ahead of their first World Cup meeting in 20 years, The Sun tabloid of England announced, "Get ready for Germ warfare -- the old enemy have set up a Last 16 clash with England." The Daily Star's headline after England's Group C second-place finish read, “Job done ... Now for the Hun.” (Hun being a derogatory wartime nickname for the Germans.)
But the British tabloids haven’t hit the depths they reached in the 1990s.
Before the Italia ’90 semifinal, The Sun’s front-page headline announced, “We Beat Them in '45, We Beat Them in '66 and Now The Battle of ‘90.” (1945 being a World War II reference.)
During the 1996 European Championship, The Daily Mirror ran the headline, “Achtung! Surrender! For You Fritz, Ze Euro 96 Championship Is Over.” The paper also published pages of doctored photos of German players wearing World War II helmets. The Daily Mirror editor eventually apologized, while The People, after Germany's win, ran the headline: “Kr-out again.”
Uli Hesse, the author of “Tor! The Story of German Football,” believes the Germans don’t get quite as worked up about the rivalry as the English.
"Germans are, by and large, baffled by the English insistence that there is a rivalry and that the teams, let alone the countries, are ‘old enemies,'" Hesse says. "We consider England a big, tradition-laden team you want to play simply because it's a legendary soccer clash. That, however, is all.
“In that regard, England is the same to us as Italy, France, Brazil and Argentina.”
As for the war references in the British tabloids, Hesse says, “In the mid-90s, many people were truly shocked by the war headlines and the tasteless imagery, but over the years we've learned to take it less seriously, because the English don't take it seriously themselves. We hope.”
Hesse notes that the German newspapers seem to relish quoting the English tabloid’s hype: “The more outlandish the better.”
German magazine Stern welcomed Sunday's game with, “Hello Again, Beloved Archenemy.”