The first decade of the new millennium would see both sides plumb the depths – a situation that was epitomised by their first phase encounter at Euro 2000. Germany under Erich Ribbeck had reached their footballing nadir, while England under the enthusiastic but clueless Kevin Keegan were not much better. England finally overcame Germany in a competive fixture for the first time since 1966, but it was of little value as both sides were eliminated at the first hurdle.
Under new coach Rudi Völler Germany had ruined England’s farewell to the old Wembley stadium in October 2001 – which in turn led to the resignation of Keegan and his eventual replacement with Swede Sven-Göran Eriksson, the country’s first overseas coach. Germany were unbeaten and cruising to the finals when they met England in the return fixture less than a year later in Munich, and appeared to be well on their way with an early Carsten Jancker goal – only for England to slam home five in reply and inflict what was the Mannschaft’s heaviest and arguably most ignominious home defeat for seventy years.
The now iconic image of the Olympiastadion scoreboard and the words “even Heskey scored” will forever rankle with any follower of the Mannschaft who had to endure it: mercifully I was spared the agony by being on a coach from Danzig at the time.
The shock of 01.09.01 would not get in the way of things though: the inconsistencies remained, but with the bottom of the barrel being well and truly scraped the only way was up. Germany made it to Korea and Japan, and against all odds reached yet another World Cup final; this was followed by a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup in front of a home crowd that had started to love the team again, and two years later there was a second-place finish at Euro 2008. England meanwhile had flattered to decieve: they had finally started to show more consistency, but always found themselves unable to get it right when it really mattered.
The two sides were to exchange 2-1 away wins in the final two games of the decade, with Germany inflicting England’s first defeat at the new Wembley – complementing their victory in the final match at the old ground – before England matched the result in Berlin, extending Germany’s curiously barren record against the Three Lions in their own capital city.
Charleroi 2000, UEFA European Championship First Phase
Wembley 2000, FIFA World Cup Qualifying Match
München 2001, FIFA World Cup Qualifying Match
Wembley 2007, Friendly International
Berlin 2008, Friendly International