The match on Tuesday 29th June was memorable for several reasons. An emotional crowd cheered on the home team during an event that marked not only a vital win over their nemesis but also a light at the end of the tunnel after a year of pandemic restrictions.
For the players taking part in the European tournament, and for the fans watching both at home and in the stadium, it had been a long wait.
Organisers UEFA postponed Euro 2020 by 12 months as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The decision wasn’t taken lightly and followed video conference meetings between the presidents and general secretaries of the 55 European national football associations and other high-level officials. It was decided to retain the name Euro 2020, even though the event wasn’t being held until 2021.
The England camp couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome. Right up until the start of the tournament, it was still unclear how many fans would be able to watch their team in the stadium, due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
As it turned out, some 40,000 spectators were permitted to watch at the home of English football, at the biggest UK sporting event for 15 months. The Wembley capacity during the group stages was 22,500. However, the government gave the go-ahead to almost double the number for the England v Germany match.
There’s even better news for the fans, as Wembley will be permitted to have 60,000 spectators for the semi-finals and the final of Euro 2020.
England’s crucial victory over Germany came after a largely uneventful match that remained 0-0 until Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling broke the deadlock with a 75th-minute goal. The tension rose to an almost unbelievable level, considering England’s poor record against Germany in the tournament.
Then, if the result was ever in doubt, Spurs’ Harry Kane made it 2-0 in the 86th minute, when the England fans went truly wild.
England manager Gareth Southgate stuck to the trusted 3-4-3 formation, ignoring the social media demands for more creative players. His faith paid off, after England survived early pressure from Germany in the first half.
As the second half wore on, the England players grew in confidence when Germany failed to capitalise on their early domination. It took patience to wait for the right moment, but Sterling took his chance and set England on the road to a momentous victory.
Amazingly, it was only their second victory in the knockout phase at a European Championship. Their first was 25 years ago against Spain in 1996. It also brought to an end a period of German dominance over England.
Historic football rivalry
When England meet Germany on the football pitch, it’s one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the game. However, it goes back far beyond the World Cup of 1966. The first full international between the two nations was a friendly in Berlin in 1930, when the final score was a three-all draw.
England actually dominated in the early years, beating Germany 3-0 at their next meeting in 1935 at White Hart Lane. The Observer reported how 8,000 German fans had crossed the channel at £3 a time for the match, which was broadcast live on the radio across Germany.
Their next meeting was in 1938, at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, which England won 6-3. However, World War II intervened. By the time the two teams met again, 16 years had passed and a lot had changed.
The Germans won the World Cup in 1954, but multiple injuries led to the visitors having to field their second team when they played England at Wembley. England won 3-1, but didn’t have to play well to beat the weakened Germany side, according to newspaper reports.
The peak of the famous England-Germany rivalry came at the World Cup in 1966, when the final was filled with drama. With England leading 2-1, a last-ditch German goal made it 2-2 to take the match into extra time.
England won eventually after a hotly-disputed third goal from Geoff Hurst at close range, which critics said hadn’t crossed the line. It is still a controversial talking point to this day. However, one minute before the end of extra time, Hurst scored again to make the final score 4-2.
This led to arguably the most famous piece of commentary in sporting history, when BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, describing the scene, said, “Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over…it is now!” as the fourth goal went in.
Since England’s momentous World Cup win in 1966, their recent record against Germany has been poor. Germany beat England for the first time in 1968, when the score was 1-0 in Hanover. Franz Beckenbauer inflicted the Germans’ first defeat on their rivals with a late winner.
In the 1970 World Cup quarter-final in Leon, England crashed out to their German rivals when they were beaten 3-2. This seemed to have a psychologically uplifting effect on Germany, having finally broken England’s dominance. Up until 2001, England won only three of their 15 games against Germany.
They redeemed themselves in September 2001, when England enjoyed their largest-ever victory against Germany, beating them 1-5 at the Olympic Stadium in Munich. This left Germany reeling by the scale of the loss.
In the past two decades, Germany has beaten England several times, including their 2-1 win in 2007; a 4-1 thrashing in 2010 and their 1-0 win in a friendly in 2017. This was the first match under England manager Southgate. However, England have had a number of wins too, including their 2-1 victory in 2008, so it has by no means been disastrous.
The importance of England’s decisive victory in Euro 2020 on 29th June is apparent from the media headlines. It was even sweeter because of the delayed tournament and the fact the match was played at Wembley in front of a large English crowd.
Now England are set to play Ukraine, who beat Sweden 1-2 in their last 16 match on 29th June. The other teams in the quarter-finals are Denmark, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
England’s match v Ukraine kicks off at 8 pm in Rome on Saturday 3rd July. Should England progress through the quarter-finals and semi-finals, they will be in the final on 11th July at Wembley Stadium.
Looking beyond Euro 2020, the next European championship is due to take place in 2024. Rather than delay it until 2025 due to this year’s event being late, the organisers are to stick to their original pre-Covid schedule to preserve the regular calendar of events in future.
Euro 2024 will kick off in June 2024. Germany’s manager Joachim Löw, who is now retiring after 15 years in the post, will be replaced by Hansi Flick. Löw is already setting up future rivalries following his disappointing exit from national management, by claiming his young team will be peaking perfectly in time for Euro 2024.
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