Football rivalries don’t come much bigger than England versus Germany.
The tie, steeped in decades of history, has thrown up memorable moments, tears, and more penalty shootouts for English fans to care for over the years.
The two nations are set to write another chapter in this classic fixture on Tuesday as they compete for a place in the quarterfinals of Euro 2020.
With Germany – a World Cup winner in 2014 – very much holding the upper hand over its old enemy in recent times, the rivalry remains very strong in England and it’s not lost on German fans either.
Stuart Dykes is a dual national having moved from England to Germany in 1987. As a football fan, who has worked in the offices of two Bundesliga clubs, he has seen the rivalry from both perspectives.
“I think it’s probably the biggest game for them [Germany] as well,” he tells CNN.
“Germany against England, it stands out above the rest. There will be bigger games for Germany in the football sense, but not from all the background, the history, the meaning.
“England is the home of football, if you like. Wembley is the home of football. So it’s a special game for the Germans.
“Although having said that, I think most of them would be quietly confident that they can win as usual.”
The game that changed football
England fans won’t want to remember the last time their team played Germany in a competitive fixture – at the 2010 World Cup.
That match in Bloemfontein, South Africa, ended in a 4-1 Germany win, but, regardless of the result, events on that day would go on to change football forever.
The game will always be remembered for Frank Lampard’s “ghost goal” which contributed to the introduction of goal-line technology in the modern game.
With the match poised at 2-1, the English midfielder thought he had equalized with a delightful chip over Manuel Neuer. Despite the ball quite clearly bouncing off the crossbar and over the line, the officials on the day did not see it and did not award the goal.
It caused outrage in England, forcing the game’s governing bodies to apologize and paving the way for technology in the sport.
By the next World Cup in 2014, FIFA had introduced goal-line technology. By the 2018 edition, VAR was in full flow.
“It changed the game for the better,” Lampard previously said about his “goal,” per Sports Illustrated.
“So I’m pleased about that. It’s a positive move for the game as a whole with the introduction of goal-line technology.”
It hasn’t always been doom and gloom for England in this fixture.
The side, spearheaded by the likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen, secured a famous 5-1 win against Germany in a World Cup qualifier in 2001.
There is also World Cup final win against West Germany in 1966 – the last time England won a major tournament.
That game also featured a controversial goal.
Running onto a cross from Alan Ball, England’s Geoff Hurst controlled the ball and shot high, beating the keeper but hitting the crossbar. The ball bounced straight down, making it virtually impossible to tell if it had crossed the line.
Hands from both sides shot up and a tense few minutes ensued, with the Soviet linesman, Tofik Bakhramov of Azerbaijan, first denying the goal and then, following consultation with the referee, allowing it. That made the score 3-2 with England winning 4-2.
But, in truth, successes have been few and far between and a lot of England’s heartbreak against Germany has centered around penalties.
At both the 1990 World Cup against West Germany and Euro 1996, England was knocked out of the semifinals after losing penalty shootouts.
The match in 1990 is also remembered for England’s talisman Paul Gascoigne shedding a tear after being shown a yellow card which would have ruled him out of the final – should his team had got there.
As the saying goes: “22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
Current England manager Gareth Southgate missed the decisive penalty at Wembley in 1996 and English fans will be praying the game doesn’t get to that stage again on Tuesday.
“It’s a big joke for German fans. England are notoriously bad at taking penalties,” adds Dykes.
“I’ve just seen a headline saying England can beat Germany, but not on penalties. So, yeah, I think that’s what it comes down to at the moment.
“I don’t think either team is playing that well, to be honest, and then it might just come down to that mentality. And that’s where I think the Germans have the edge.”
Amid Covid-19 restrictions, 40,000 people will be in the stadium to watch the match live, but Dykes says Wembley is still a magical place for English and German fans alike.
“Just winning in a friendly at Wembley is still a big thing. It’s a real shame that there won’t be as many German supporters in the ground because of the Covid restrictions. Wembley is [the very best] for German football fans,” he adds.
There are still those, mainly from the English tabloid press, who have looked to find unhealthy links between the football rivalry and the two countries’ political past, including the two World Wars.
But the majority see it for what it really is: two footballing powerhouses, squads packed with talent and a history unlike any other in international football.
“For us as players, we don’t tend to think too much about the history. It is about the here and now. What Germany are good at and the areas we can exploit. What we can do to hurt them,” England player Jordan Henderson told reporters ahead of Tuesday.
“Things we can do in the game, that’s where all our energy goes. We don’t get too caught up on the history and what has happened previously.”