While the 1970s had seen a masterful Nationalmannschaft and what was arguably a truly awful England side, the following decade was to witness a period of consolidation by both countries. Of course, this was all relative when compared to previous success: having won the the European title in 1980, Germany continued to find its way into major tournament finals, though without playing the same attractive football as they had done in the 1970s. Despite fielding what could best be described as an ordinary and at times infuriatingly negative and attritional side, they reached two successive World Cup finals in 1982 and 1986.
England meanwhile had started off in a far worse position following their dramatic slump in form during the 1970s, but had finally started to turn the corner. After a dismal Euro 1980 and an unbeaten but ultimately disappointing World Cup in 1982, failure to reach the European Championship finals in 1984 had been followed by an altogether more encouraging period under Bobby Robson.
The results of the four matches between the two countries during the 1980s largely followed the pattern set in the previous decade, with Germany holding the upper hand. The football however was rather ordinary from both sides: their first meeting of the decade in the World Cup second phase in Spain had produced a mind-numbingly tedious goalless draw, while an equally dull Wembley friendly later that year was brightened only by a late Karl-Heinz Rummenigge double strike as the Mannschaft ran out 2-1 winners.
England did win the next encounter in Mexico City in 1985, but it was soon forgotten in that it had come against a second-string German side that had not even had a chance to acclimatise before taking to the field. In much the same way as the Germans found no good cause to be alarmed at the 3-0 reverse, the England management saw no reason to make a big deal about a game that was far closer than the result suggested.
Things improved markedly for both sides after the 1986 World Cup, particuarly for Franz Beckenbauer’s German side which had been infused with plenty of new blood: the final encounter of the decade saw Germany’s superiority restored, courtesy of an easy 3-1 win against a first-choice England side in Düsseldorf.