Another chapter in colourful history
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
England's Glen Johnson, Wayne Rooney, Gareth Barry, Joe Hart and John Terry listen to coach Fabio Capello during a World Cup training session at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus near Rustenburg. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)
DURBAN – It's been 44 years and still the debate rages on.
Did England forward Geoff Hurst actually score in extra time against Germany or did the ball hit the crossbar and stay out?
It has become a moot point. The Soviet linesman ruled that it went in. England led 3-2 in extra time and went on to win 4-2 and claim the 1966 World Cup at home.
If you are an English supporter, the ball definitely went in. If you are anything but, the ball clearly never crossed the line and England was given a gift, its only World Cup.
It may have been 44 years ago, but whenever England and Germany play, it's just part of the colourful history between the two teams.
So with England and Germany meeting surprisingly early in the South Africa World Cup, the less-than-friendly rivalry will be revisited and used as incentive when the two take to the pitch Sunday in Bloemfontein.
England's spotty performance in its group qualifying earned it second place in Group C. As a result, this World Cup has its first truly gigantic matchup and it's happening in the round of 16.
It's probably not something FIFA wanted this early, but even those control freaks can't control the results. It will be the 28th time the two countries have played each other. England has 12 wins to Germany's 10.
But when you eliminate friendlies and look at matches that mean something, Germany hold the edge 5-3, including six World Cup meetings. Germany won three, England two and the other was drawn.
The war of words, initiated by Germany, has already been started by former German football legend Franz Beckenbauer. Germany have won three World Cups, made the final seven times and made the quarter-finals at least in 13 of the last 14 World Cups.
Yet England only fears one thing going into this game: Kicks from the penalty spot. England has a terrible record when the game is decided in that fashion.
Aside from the 1966 final that England won, here are some of the other highlight moments when England and Germany have meet.
• In 1938, the British government ordered England to salute Adolf Hitler before an exhibition game. It must have bothered the players to no end because England came out and thumped Germany 6-3.
• The 1970 World Cup produced one of the classic English collapses in World Cup history. England was leading 2-0 with Peter Bonetti in goal. He replaced Gordon Banks who fell ill before the game. Bonetti was no Banks. Germany managed to tie on a pair of iffy goals and then watched as Gerd Muller won it in extra time.
• At the 1996 European championships, England played a unified German team for the very first time in a competitive fixture. The semifinal was tied 1-1 and the match went to kicks from the penalty spot again. All five German and English shooters scored. But Gareth Southgate missed on the next one for England and Andreas Möller connected to give Germany the win.
• In a qualifying game for the World Cup in 2001, Germany beat England 1-0, the last international fixture ever to be played at Wembley Stadium. The return match might have been England's greatest moment against Germany. Led by a Michael Owen hat trick, England thumped Germany 5-1.
Judging by the interest and anticipation of Sunday's match, there is real hope that the match in Bloemfontein will produce another memorable chapter in an already heated history.