Germany 1 England 5
Olympiastadion, Munich, Germany
1st September 2001
By Josh Benn
There are important games and there are big games. Germany
versus England was both. A hugely significant encounter positively oozing with
hype and hyperbole was nominally the near culmination of a World Cup
qualification campaign but actually the resumption of hostilities based on
decades of deadly rivalry. Germany's win at Wembley last October had decidedly
rattled England's psyche and a score to settle - like no other - loomed large
for Eriksson's men - beat Germany in Germany.
Before the game Eriksson said "Records are there to be broken" and so
it proved, as England comprehensively expunged the ghosts of encounters past and
finally broke free of the terrible angst that has surrounded almost every
encounter against Germany for 25 years. For once, it is the German nation waking
up to a terrible sinking feeling in their collective stomach.
The most important fact to emerge from the game is that England have now
dramatically seized the initiative in Group 9 and hold automatic World Cup
qualification in their own hands for the first time since that fateful day at
Wembley last October. Not making it to Japan/Korea next year will undo all the
good work so far and tarnish irreparably, the victory achieved in Munich. Wins
in England's remaining two World Cup qualifiers, by no means a certainty, must
remain the primary focus and priority.
That sobering thought aside, it is now time to unashamedly revel in the glorious
destruction of Europe's most successful international side - Germany.
Germany had only lost one World Cup qualifier - ever. They had never, ever, lost
in Munich and the expectation of German TV pundits, manager, team, fans, nation
was that a draw would be sufficient to qualify. "We expect to win" was
the message from the "Kaiser", Franz Beckenbauer. Carsten Jancker,
smarting from criticism about him in the English media was unequivocal -
"We are going to win".
Eriksson, on the other hand had already made plain his calm and reasoned
thoughts. "England can win - if we play a near perfect game and have some
luck". So the scene was set for a high octane confrontation.
The Olympic Stadium in Munich was packed with 63,000 supporters. 'Official'
England fans - around 6,000 by all accounts - occupied a swathe of seating
behind one of the goals. 'Unofficial' England fans seemed dotted around
The teams, Germany in green, England in their white home strip, were led out by
the Italian Pierluigi Collina - arguably the best referee in the world and
certainly the most recognisable.
Germany, missing several key players, nevertheless paraded an experienced side.
With Carsten Jancker and Oliver Neuville in attack. (Oliver Beirhoff - sporting
a black eye - sat expressionless on the bench, as it turned out, for the whole
game). In midfield, the new young sensation - Sebastien Deisler - was to provide
the playmaking vision alongside Thomas Ballack.
The Germans were clearly worried about one thing: Michael Owen and Jens Nowotny
- Germany's sweeper, almost prematurely excused his own teams dismal defensive
performance when he said in a pre-match interview "You can't keep Michael
Owen quiet for 90 minutes - he will get chances" . Quite right, Mr Nowotny.
England, on the other hand, are in danger of starting to field a settled side.
Emile Heskey and Michael Owen are clearly the preferred choice in the dual
striking roles and only the left side of midfield still has an air of vacant
possession about it with Nick Barmby being the guest performer on this occasion.
David Beckham, under intense scrutiny for any signs of a lingering groin strain,
Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes comprise the youthful and exciting midfield.
Steven Gerrard's record in a senior England shirt is played five, won five and
is not a record he is likely to give up easily.
Ashley Cole, now an established part of the team, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell
and Gary Neville constitute the defensive back four in front of the seasoned
veteran David Seaman. Germany made much of Oliver Kahn's stature as probably the
world's number one 'keeper and sought to undermine Seaman's position prior to
the game by calling him variously "slow", and "over the
hill". Only Kahn, in that peculiar unspoken goalkeeper cameraderie kind of
way, came to Seaman's defence and hailed him as a great 'keeper still with
plenty to offer.
England got off to the worst possible start - within five minutes Germany
pressed forward and a neat Ballack chip followed by a cushioned header from
Oliver Neuville allowed Carsten Jancker to run into the penalty area and fire
Germany into a one-nil lead with the soul of his boot. Seaman stranded, England
rocked, Germany ahead.
Whereas some teams are apt to crumble under the strain of conceding early -
England, in contrast, seemed the more motivated by the setback. Within a few
minutes a low Beckham cross had Oliver Kahn scrambling to clear his six-yard
area with his feet and on 12 minutes a dreadfully clumsy push on Michael Owen by
Sebastian Deisler near the far corner flag secured a free-kick in a dangerous
Beckham's free-kick to the far post was collected by Steven Gerrard who hoofed
the ball up in the air only for it to be headed back into the German penalty
area by Gary Neville. Kahn rushing out to punch away is beaten to the ball by
Nicky Barmby who intelligently heads down the ball to Owen. His instinctive and
powerful half volley bulges the back of the German net satisfyingly. One-One.
England have the better of the following ten minutes as Beckham sees a searing
free-kick sail past the far German upright and more significantly, Owen has the
chance to put England two ahead with an attempted snap shot from a Gary Neville
throw-in on the near-side. For Owen, such is his form, the chance constituted a
miss - for other mortals - it was a virtually impossible opportunity.
Games turn on moments and this game was generously littered with them. The first
such moment occurred in the 22nd minute. Deisler, inexplicably drifting unmarked
into the middle of England's penalty area received a deft low cross from
Neuville. Deisler's ghastly miss - from 8 yards - did more to damage Germany's
chances of victory than Owen's opening goal. Head in hands, he immediately
realised the significance of his lapse.
Owen by now was starting to terrify the German defence. For such a diminutive
player - his capacity to worry defenders twice his size is remarkable. A long
range pass, a regular feature of Beckham's game, finds Owen in space near the
penalty area - his powerful first-time volley is only marginally wide of the
post and leaves Kahn looking both worried and relieved.
For such an experienced player, the captain of the German national side no less,
his misjudgement at picking up a poor Deisler backpass characterised his state
of mind - nervous and unsettled. With the German wall on the goal-line Beckham's
indirect free-kick was bravely blocked by Marko Rehme. For David Beckham, the
proximity of the kick - so close to the goal-line - constituted a more difficult
goalscoring chance than one 3 times further way.
The game was by now end-to-end - no side having the upper hand - no side under
the cosh. Neuville almost surprised Seaman with an excellent chest and volley
but his attempt flew past the upright and minutes later, David Seaman's superb
and world class save low to his right from a sharp Jorg Bohme drive saved
England from conceding a very damaging second goal.
England still purposeful in attack, pushed forward in the last few minutes of
the half. Jens Nowotny with a rash, and quite unnecessary, challenge on Beckham
by the nearside corner flag - unwittingly set up the most decisive moment of the
game. Beckham's cross, Ferdinand's headed knock-down and Steven Gerrards
rasping, wicked, powerful drive left Kahn sprawling and Germany reeling. Two-one
The psychological effect of scoring on half-time can never be underestimated.
England well remember the devastating effect Veron's goal had on the St. Etienne
encounter with Argentina in France '98. A side going in at half-time - having
just conceded - have 15 minutes in which to dwell negatively on the
In a game where the first half stretched belief to the maximum - the second half
elevated the contest to new and uncharted heights of ecstasy. While Germany were
still rationalising the deficit - England were purposefully striving to secure
To their credit, sitting back on a 2-1 lead never seemed to enter England's head
and three minutes after the break England delivered a near knockout blow that
shattered Germany's already fragile confidence. A Beckham cross, a Heskey headed
knock-down and a terrific Michael Owen volley from 12 yards secured a 3-1 lead
in emphatic style.
Germany were by now mostly confined to long range strikes at goal. Ballack and
Deisler both being off target with strikes on 53 and 57 minutes respectively.
Moments later Jancker headed down for Ballack, free by the penalty spot, who
volleyed wide unchallenged. With greater composure Germany could have been
within a single goal of England with half an hour still to play - as it was 6
minutes later England further cemented their lead with a superb interception and
pass from Steven Gerrard to Michael Owen who ran into the box. His confident and
purposeful strike over Oliver Kahn's sinking body secured an amazing - but
richly deserved hat-trick. His first for England and the first by any England
player against Germany since Sir Geoff Hurst's World Cup winning treble in 1966.
Oliver Kahn - for so long the last and strongest line of defence for Germany was
beginning to see his reputation unravelled in uncompromising fashion by arguably
the most in-form international striker in the world.
Incredibly, despite a three goal cushion, England were still taking the game to
the Germans. Whereas other sides may have opted to sit back and invite pressure
for the remainder of the game, England were showing excellent forward movement
and focus. Steven Gerrard in particular epitomising the character of the team -
never giving up - never slowing down - never letting Germany back into the game.
Despite a smart clearance from David Seaman at the feet of Rehme, German
pressure mostly amounted to very little and with 15 minutes remaining a
penetrative Beckham through-ball to Paul Scholes, followed by an accurate and
inviting cross to Emile Heskey's feet was dispatched in clinical fashion past a
shell-shocked Kahn for a 5-1 lead.
Owen Hargreaves, in a return to his home ground, replaced the dynamic Gerrard
and along with bit parts for Steve McManaman (replacing Barmby) and Jamie
Carragher (for Scholes) there was not enough time for any of them to make
any real impact.
Pictures of hundreds of German fans streaming out of the Olympic Stadium, with
more than 15 minutes of the match remaining, was the final salting of the wounds
for the home side and many German players seemed relieved when the final whistle
finally put an end to their torment. Incredibly, Germany conceded, in that one
game - more than a tenth of all the goals they have ever conceded in World Cup
The initial euphoria over, the question on everyone's minds was where this
victory stood in the context of England's international record. Certainly, this
performance rated as one of their finest ever. Victories in World or European
Cup tournaments, played on neutral grounds are satisfying and worthy - but to
play - sorry, outplay - Germany, in Munich with the sort of record they had was
very, very special. As a single performance, it rates as the best since the
final of '66 but ironically the real measure of its worth will only come once
England have progressed through the latter stages of the World Cup next year.
Any side can have a lucky win, any side can beat any other on a single day - the
true gauge of success is being able to do it over and over and over again -
witness Germany's record both at qualifying and finals stages.
Progressing - in footballing terms - is often more about overcoming the mental
hurdles than the physical or technical ones and this crop of new and exciting
England talent that Sven-Göran Eriksson has at his disposal are already
healthily laying to rest some of the ghosts of England's past and well as
staking a claim to sustainable success in the future.
The 3-2 defeat in Mexico in 1970, the World Cup Semi-Final in 1990, the
Semi-final of Euro '96 and the defeat in the last ever Wembley international.
These were painful results that many England fans felt had clouded each
successive encounter with Germany. The 5-1 defeat of Germany has set an enormous
number of records straight and a new generation of players and fans are moving
on - unburdened by the weight of history and believing that England are good
enough to play and beat anyone, anywhere.
Victory against Albania in the next qualifying game is a must. Eriksson, in his
post match interview said that one of the first things he talked about to the
England players after the Germany game was the Albania match. If anyone can keep
England's feet on the ground after a victory of that significance - it's
Erikkson. Given his superb record so far as manager - it must say something
about how good his pre-match preparation is.
One of the most haunting images for me throughout all the England games I have
ever seen was that of Andy Moller arrogantly strutting in front of the England
fans at Wembley having scored the winning goal in the Euro '96 semi-final
Thank you Mr. Eriksson, for helping me to lay that memory to rest.