Although the DFB recognises all fixtures played by the German national side from 1908, the English Football Association only classify those played after 1930 as full internationals. To avoid possible confusion, for the purpose of this comparative analysis I have taken the game played on May 10th 1930 in Berlin as the first full international played between the two sides. (The full official DFB record, which includes the four “amateur” games played before 1930, can be seen here).
Since the first “proper” fixture in May 1930, a total of thirty-one matches have been played with Germany winning fifteen and England thirteen, with three draws: the fifteen German victories also include the two penalty shootout wins in the 1990 World Cup in Italy and 1996 European Championship – in England. (Some statisticians have deemed these two results as draws, but for my study I have decided on factoring in the match outcome rather than just the scoreline after 120 minutes).
In competitive fixtures, Germany holds the edge: in all, there have been nine encounters between the two sides in major international competition: Germany have won five of these (WC Quarter-Final 1970, EC 2nd qualifying phase 1972, WC Semi-Final 1990, EC Semi-Final 1996, WC 2nd Phase 2010), England two (WC Final 1966, EC 1st Phase 2000) with two draws (EC qualifying phase 1972, WC 2nd group phase 1982).
While the basic overall head to head record between Germany and England remains just about even, their comparative records in major tournaments present a completely different picture. In tournament competition the Nationalmannschaft are streets ahead: with the exception of Euro 1968 they have qualified for every edition of the World Cup and European Championship they have entered, and have never exited a tournament earlier than England with the exception of the 1966 World Cup (where they finished runner-up to England), Euro 1968 (whey they failed to qualify and England reached the last four) and Euro 2004 (where they were eliminated in the first phase and England reached the last eight).
Since 1934 Germany have reached the World Cup finals on every single occasion, with the exception of 1950 when the team was excluded from the competition. England meanwhile have failed to qualify on three occasions – 1974, 1978 and 1994. Both teams’ records follow a similar pattern in qualifying for the finals of the European Championships: while Germany’s only failure to qualify was their first attempt in 1968, England have failed to make the cut three times – 1976, 1984 and 2008.
Then there are the records in the final tournaments themselves. In the eighteen World Cup finals tournaments Germany have played in, they have failed to make it past the first phase on only one occasion (1938) and have reached the last four a staggering thirteen times. England by contrast have played in fourteen World Cups, and have been made the last four on only two occasions (1966 and 1990) and have been knocked out in the first phase three times (1950, 1958 and 2014). Germany have appeared in eight World Cup Final matches (1954, 1966, 1974, 1982, 1986, 1990, 2002, 2014) while England have made the final two only once, on home soil in 1966. Germany currently have four World Cup victories to England’s one.
The differences are even more stark in the European Championship: while Germany have reached the last four nine times in twelve attempts, England have managed to achieve this feat only twice, in 1968 and 1996. Germany’s eight semi-finals have led to six appearances in the Final itself (1972, 1976, 1980, 1992, 1996, 2008) while England have never made it that far; the closest they have come was when they took Germany to a penalty shootout on home soil in 1996. The Nationalmannschaft have won three of the six European Championship Final matches they have played in, making them the most successful side in the history of the competition.
FIFA World Cup Comparison Chart
Apart from in 1950 (when the DFB were excluded following the end of the Second World War) and 1966 (when England won the trophy) Germany have always managed to perform better than the Three Lions in World Cup finals. Since their defeat at Wembley, the Mannschaft have always gone at least one stage further then England in every World Cup – a record that spans a dozen tournaments up to and including the most recent gathering in Brazil in 2014 which saw the Nationalmannschaft win their fourth title after a gap of twenty-four years.
On the graph below, Germany’s four World Cup victories in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014 are marked A, B, C and D; England’s sole victory in 1966 is marked E.
Key: 0 = DNQ; 2 = 1st Phase; 4 = 2nd Phase/Last 16; 5 = 2nd Phase/Last 12; 6 = Quarter-Finalist/Last 8; 8 = Semi-Finalist/Last 4; 9 = Third Place; 10 = Runner-Up; 12 = Winner.
UEFA European Championship Comparison Chart
When Helmut Schön’s side were pipped by Yugoslavia in qualifying for the 1968 tournament, England reached the last four; after that point, the general rule of thumb was that Germany would always progress at least one stage further than their rivals. This remained the case until 2000 when both sides were knocked out in the first phase, with England finally going one better four years later.
In Austria and Switzerland in 2008 normal service had been resumed: while England had failed to qualify for the tournament, Jogi Löw’s German side went on to reach the final. Four years later in Poland and the Ukraine, Germany went on to reach the last four, while England were eliminated at the quarter-final stage. In the expanded tournament in France in 2016, Germany again made the semi-finals, while England were eliminated in the last sixteen.
On the graph below, Germany’s three European Championship victories in 1972, 1980 and 1996 are marked A, B and C.
Key: 0 = DNQ; 2 = 1st Phase; 4 = 2nd Phase/Last 16; 6 = Quarter-Finalist/Last 8; 8 = Semi-Finalist/Last 4; 10 = Runner-Up; 12 = Winner.