2001 England: Germany
Few people in England and even fewer in Germany, were ready for what was in store on a warm September night in Munich, 2001. For the third time in little over a year England were to face Germany in a competitive match, and although England had narrowly won the first of those three, it was widely recognised that it was down to an inadequate German side. Germany had since restored the balance of power with another close win, this time in the last match to be played at the old Wembley Stadium, and England were out for revenge.
Euro 2000In June 2000 Kevin Keegan's England team had won the Euro 2000 group match between the two sides, with an Alan Shearer header, but both sides subsequently went out at the group stage. Although they'd beaten Germany, England were not playing well, and could not beat either Portugal or Romania. Germany went out without a win, their worst tournament finish in living memory, and coach Erich Ribber, resigned after the competition, Rudi Völler the replacement.
Wembley EmbarrassmentThe second meeting that year was the opening match of the qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup tournament. A revitalised Germany beat England with a quickly taken free kick by Liverpool’s Dietmar Hamann, and now it was Keegan’s turn, throwing in the towel immediately after the game.
Setting the SceneSwede Sven-Goran Eriksson had taken the England post and in the intervening months had restored confidence within the team, building a team around younger players. he was looking toward Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, as the chances of qualifying for 2002 were slim.
After all, Germany were four points ahead at the top of the group, had far better goal difference, and although England had a game in hand, only the top team in the group qualified. The runners-up had to take their chances in a play-off pool.
A Bad StartEngland’s worst fears were confirmed when Germany took the lead only five minutes into the game. A chip over the defence was headed back across goal to an unmarked Carsten Jancker who finished well. But just over five minutes later, England were level.
A David Beckham free kick went over the penalty area but was hooked back for Gary Neville to nod back into the area. The German defence rushed out to catch the England attack offside, but intelligent running put four England attackers unmarked and onside in the area and it was Michael Owen who volleyed home past Oliver Kahn.
Gerrard CrackerIt was clear that defence wasn’t going to be the order of the day for either team, with keepers David Seaman and Oliver Kahn both having to save well, then just before half-time, the deadlock was broken. From another free kick, initially charged down, Beckham sent the ball back into the area where Rio Ferdinand cushion-headed it back and down for Steven Gerrard, waiting 25 yards from goal to chest the ball down and strike low and hard into the corner of the German goal.
Euphoria erupted across the country although nerves were still frayed, with another half to go. But that half started superbly, when Liverpool strike partners Emile Heskey and Michael Owen combined to convert another Beckham cross to make it 3-1; Owen surprising Kahn with a tricky finish, taking the ball early and firing low inside Kahn's near post.
Hat Trick for OwenOwen’s hat-trick, to an astonished English public, came mid-way through the second half. Another of his Liverpool team-mates, Steven Gerrard, sweetly dispossessed Michael Ballack just on the half-way line and sent a delightful ball through the German defence for Owen to run onto. Advancing on Kahn once more, Owen chose the near post once more, but this time high and mighty.
The rout was sealed by Heskey, Paul Scholes leading a breakaway, with Germany pressing for some sort of reply, and sliding the perfect pass across to Heskey, who outpaced the German defender and shot low to Kahn’s left.
Eriksson SmilesThe last twenty minutes were relatively uneventful, German fans streaming away from the ground as the English danced at the other end, with the team content to sit on their lead. It was great to see a smiling and cheerful Eriksson jumping up with the rest of the bench, a sight that would become rare over the next five years.
Both Go Through in the EndEngland won their game in hand, beating Albania 2-0 four days later, to put them level on points at the top with Germany, but ahead on goal difference. On the last day of qualifying, both teams would draw, leaving the standings as they were, with Germany going into a two-leg play-off against the Ukraine.
This was highly embarrassing for Germany as they had already arranged friendly matches for those play-off dates, but they did go through in the end. At the tournament, both teams went out against eventual winners Brazil, England in the quarter-finals and Germany in the final itself, so Germany ended up higher placed in the end.
What a Night!It was a fine, fine night. In 90 incredible minutes England had rescued their chances of qualification and resolved the goal difference issue. It was England’s first win in Germany since 1965, and their biggest win against top class opposition for many decades.
It was the first time Germany had been beaten at the Olympiastadion since 1973, and only the second qualification game that they had lost in the last sixty games. It was certainly the finest England performance since the 4-1 demolition of Holland at the 1996 European Championship.