Harris Sportsthoughts

Thoughts about Sport

England vs Germany Memories

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It may seem parochial to suggest it but the enmity between England and Germany didn’t explode until 1990. There’d been a few scuffles on and off the pitch before it but even in 1966 there is little mention of malintent between the sides. Even chubby Helmut Haller’s egregious pilfering of the matchball was only retrospectively condemned after Turin.

I can only recollect the game itself in highlight form. Largely because I couldn’t bring myself to watch it, preferring instead to drift outside to the family garden and busy myself inspecting the herbaceous border. Peonies were more appealing than Klaus Augenthaler at that stage. Although I was too young to summon the emotional faculties to cope with the tension, but I understood the aspects of the West German squad that made them so unpopular: pioneers in the art of diving, jammy deflected free-kick merchants, and above all ruthless and strong and unbeatable.


The European Championships semi-final at Wembley followed the blueprint created by the Turin match: fated England raise their game to be foiled again by Germany, who since 1990 had lost the ‘West’ in front of their name to be replaced by ‘fucking’. It was so sickening inevitable that Alan Shearer’s early opener just seemed to have written the opening passage in another tragedy. The Germans were more unlikeable than before, having slunk through pragmatically against Croatia in the quarter-finals. Matthias Sammer had been recruited from the old East Germany to ramp up the villainy factor. I think it was something about the way he minced forward from defence that was so disagreeable. And in front of him, a player I’d never heard of before or want to since, Dieter Eilts, dropping back to allow Sammer to flounce forward. He was a balding assassin required only to destroy anything resembling football that happened in his vicinity. It was anti-football and it was horrible.


Both England and Germany were going through what might euphemistically be called a ‘transitional period’. They were rubbish. Dennis Wise kept Steven Gerrard out of the side. I don’t remember anything about the game. I don’t remember where I watched it. It was a hollow victory put into context by both teams’ subsequent departure from the tournament. Some men throwing outdoor furniture at each other in the town squares of Belgium just added to the squalor.

Later that year Germany got revenge of sorts in the qualifying stages of the next World Cup, after which a bedraggled Kevin Keegan fell on his sword. He may have been polishing it up before the game. It would explain away ill-conceived team selection which brought back the worst excesses of the Graham Taylor era. I know that Gareth Southgate is a massive square, but putting him in a round hole in midfield was a bit much.


I pitched up at a pub at lunchtime to watch the reverse fixture from the best seat. I’ve watched football in pubs lying on the floor before. And on a window sill. Sofas are generally more comfortable. So we shoved one about a yard in front of a screen the size of Somerset. And waited. And waited. Scotland and Croatia came on. There was nothing else to do but get drunk. By the time the match kicked off there were about 200 punters behind our sofa but I was too confused to notice.

What transpired after is now a haze. Premium lager will do that to you.


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