The 1930s saw the first international fixtures that were officially recognised by both the German and English associations, setting in motion a footballing rivalry that would provide enduring interest and bite. While the first fixture in Berlin in 1930 provided something of a surprise with Germany gaining a creditable 3-3 draw, the following two games at White Hart Lane in 1935 and Berlin in 1938 would set a pattern that would not change until the late 1960s, with England dominant.
At the time of the encounter in Berlin in 1930 England had been one of the leading sides in the world game with a well-established professional league, while the German Nationalmannschaft still had a long way to go in terms of development. Nevertheless, despite the obvious gulf in class and experience between the two sides the early competitive matches were fiercely – yet always fairly – contested.
During the latter part of the decade the fixture also acquired another dimension: with the advent of the Nazi regime, it would no longer be a simple matter of two teams engaging in a football match. The 1938 encounter in Berlin for example would forever be remembered more for the controversy surrounding the England team being instructed to give the Nazi salute, rather than their excellent 6-3 victory over a much-hyped German team.
From the controversy of 1938 to the British media’s constant use of war-related themes whenever the two sides have met in international competition since the end of the Second World War, this political dimension has remained part of the fixture’s fabric to this day – though it is worth nothing that the only individuals who have consistently risen above all of this have been the players themselves.