Soccer-England's forgotten Euros win over Germany

·4-min read
ENGLAND'S ALAN SHEARER HEADS IN HIS GOAL AGAINST GERMANY.

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - Amid all the recent recycling of England's football tournament suffering at the hands of Germany, their Euro2000 group stage victory in Belgium 21 years ago seems to have slipped from the nation's collective memory - and with good reason.

Alan Shearer's second-half goal secured England's only tournament win over their old rivals since the 1966 World Cup final, but it proved a false dawn and instead did the defeated Germans a lot more long-term good.

As England and Germany prepare for Tuesday's Euro2020 last-16 meeting at Wembley, their historical footballing relationship can effectively be divided into the period before the 68th minute of their 1970 World Cup quarter-final, and after.

England had triumphed in the 1966 World Cup final and looked to be cruising into the semi-finals in Mexico four years later via goals by Alan Mullery and Martin Peters in what would have been their eighth win in nine meetings with then-West Germany.

However, Franz Beckenbauer and Uwe Seeler levelled the match and Gerd Mueller won it for the then-West Germany in extra-time - and the balance of power shifted seismically.

Two years later the Germans knocked England out of the qualifying stage for the 1972 European Championship, which they went on to win, sparking decades of extraordinary success.

England were left on the outside looking in, not even making another tournament until the 1980 Euros - again won by West Germany - and when they did start qualifying, making little impact.

Finally, in the 1990 World Cup, they made the semi-finals, only to lose to eventual winners Germany on penalties. At Euro96 at Wembley at the same stage it was the same outcome.

Four years later the teams were drawn together in the group stage of Euro2000, but both got off to poor starts in the competition as England lost 3-2 to Portugal after being 2-0 up and Germany drew 1-1 with Romania.

The meeting in Charleroi proved to be a dire encounter, with one pundit likening it to a fight to the death between the last two dinosaurs on earth.

Freshly crowned world champions France, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands were on a different level despite the presence of the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Michael Owen and Shearer in the England starting side.

Shearer's 53rd-minute header from a Beckham free kick nevertheless had the nation rejoicing in an unheard of win over the Germans and had them well-placed to advance from the group.

That remained the case until the last minute of their final game against Romania when they conceded a last-minute penalty that enabled Romania to snatch a 3-2 win that sent them through at England's expense.

The joy of the win over Germany was immediately forgotten, and the fact that the Germans were hammered 3-0 by Portugal to finish bottom of the group merely left the Charleroi success looking even more irrelevant.

Four months later Germany won a 2002 World Cup qualifier at Wembley, sparking the resignation of England manager Kevin Keegan.

Germany had also replaced the hapless Erich Ribbeck and, shamed by their Euros exit, had begun a root and branch review of their footballing development structure.

There was a considerable bump in the road when they were hammered 5-1 at home by England in the reverse qualifier in Munich in 2001, but it was the Germans who kicked on to reach the 2002 World Cup final, as England went out in the last 16.

That revolution of their youth system effectively delivered the team that won the 2014 World Cup, as England continued to fail to get past the quarter-finals anywhere.

The teams' last competitive meeting was in the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup and though England fell apart to lose 4-1, there remains a major "what if" consideration after Frank Lampard's clear goal that would have made it 2-2 early in the second half was ruled not to have crossed the line after bouncing down off the bar.

That decision, just as the one in England's favour for Geoff Hurst's goal in the 1966 final, will be endlessly discussed along with all the penalty shoot-outs as fans prepare for Tuesday's game.

Charleroi 2000 may get less of an airing.

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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