Friday football flashback – England qualify for the World Cup finals and their greatest ever victory

England played Slovenia last night in a forgettable game at Wembley. The hosts beat a resilient Slovenia 1-0 thanks to a Harry Kane goal scored in the 94th minute. Whilst the game was a dull and uninspiring one, the result along with Scotland winning 1-0 against Slovakia now means the Three Lions have qualified for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

The crowd were largely unimpressed with the football on offer amd there was none of the jubilation that you normally associate with World Cup qualification. In fact, the largest cheer of the night was when an England fan threw a paper airplane in the air and it made its way into the back of the net. But worry not, as it’s Friday let’s look back on happier times!

Michael Owen in action for England

Michael Owen scored a hat-trick in the 5-1 win against Germany

Germany 1 England 5 – oh what a night!

There are a few games that you can watch years later and you can feel the same excitement and joy as when you first watched it. The Germany v England game in 2001 is one of them!

Going into the game, Germany had only lost one World Cup qualifying game in their entire history and their record in the tournament itself is pretty special. In 1982, they were runners-up and they repeated that feat in the next tournament in 1986. In 1990, the German national team went one better and won the tournament. The next two tournaments in 1994 and 1998 saw Germany reach the quarter finals stage, an underachievement by their impossible standards.

England were undoubtedly underdogs and had lost the first group game with the Germans 0-1 thanks to a Hammann goal in the last game to be played at ‘old’ Wembley. This game was the last in charge for Kevin Keegan, who resigned after the Germany defeat.

England appointed Sven-Göran Eriksson as his successor. Sven became England’s first ever foreign manager when he signed the contract in February 2001.

Goodbye Keegan – hello Sven

Sven got off to a flying start. Since that first game against Germany on the 7th October 2000, England had beaten Finland 2-1, Albania 3-1 away and Greece 2-1 away. With all credit to those teams, they were no Germany though and Eriksson had not yet been tested against the big boys.

Watched by 63,000 fans in the stadium and 14.6million following on TV back home, the English fans wanted a win but that was fuelled more by optimism rather a real sense of belief.

However, with Finland breathing down England’s neck in the group and Germany six points ahead and occupying the only automatic qualifying place, time was fast running out and the Three Lions needed something from the game urgently.

The England and Germany teams

Germany were coached by Rudolf Voller who won the World Cup as a player in 1990 and played in a 3-4-1-2 formation. England as mentioned were coached by Sven-Göran Eriksson and used a 4-4-1-1 formation. It’s worth noting that the unused substitutes that day were Andrew Cole, Robbie Fowler and present day England manager, Gareth Southgate.

The build-up for the game barely needs describing as there always has been a lot of animosity between the two countries and the games are normally tough and physical ones.

A nightmare start for England

Before the game, German defender Jens Nowotny dismissed England as an attacking force. He expected England to use their experience and assumed they would be too scared of losing rather than try to win the game.

They’re not dreaming of scoring lots of goals against us, England will be defence-orientated at first and play cooly and calmly.Jens Nowotny, former Germany footballer

Fellow German, Bayern Munich captain, Stefan Effenberg echoed Nowotny’s comments:

I can’t see England getting any kind of result in Munich. The game is much more important for England than it is for us. They will come here knowing that if they lose then it’s over for them in terms of the group. That may affect their play. Germany will play freely.Steffan Effenberg, former Germany footballer

If England fans feared the worst before the game it looked like this pessimism was justified when striker Carsten Jancker put Germany in the lead. Hamann had the ball in the centre circle, passed to Ballack who crossed the ball into the area. Carsten Jancker’s lofted header took out Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell and fell nicely to Carsten Jancker who stabbed the ball home.

Two headers and a half volley

That goal seemed to wake England up a bit and England were awarded a free kick for a clumsy challenge on Owen in the thirteenth minute. The free-kick by Beckham was narrowly missed at the far post by Heskey. Steven Gerard chased the free ball and placed a hopeful high ball in the general direction of the goal. Barmby headed the ball into the area. Gary Neville’s beautiful cushioned header into the path of Michael Owen was amazing and left the young striker a great chance which he took with the confidence of a player twice his age. His hit on the half-volley brought England level.

Germany really should have re-taken the lead shortly afterwards. Sebastian Deisler was completely unmarked and one-on-one with David Seaman but he hit a terrible shot wide of the post when it looked easier to score.

This looked like it was the wake-up call that England needed and in the next attack Beckham played a great ball for Gary Neville to run on to. Neville took on the German defence, passing just before reaching the penalty area, his pass was blocked but Beckham latched onto the German clearance and it took a foul by the defence to stop a dangerous cross into the penalty area. From this free-kick, Beckham launched it into the area, it was defended well but once again landed at Beckham’s feet. His next attempted cross was headed away but this time it landed at Steven Gerrard’s feet.

Steven Gerrard wonder goal

When the ball arrived to Gerrard it came with pace. He let it bounce off his chest and hit a magnificent shot on the half-volley from 30 yards. It was sublime, it had power and precision and gave arguably the best goalkeeper in the world no chance!

The goal came right on the stroke of half-time. It’s fair to say that whilst it was an amazing first half performance, many England fans were still worried.

England’s wonder kid

If hanging on for dear life was in the script, one person who never bothered to read it was Michael Owen. The young striker from Chester wasted no time in announcing his name on the big stage and soon added to his earlier goal.

In the 48th minute a Beckham cross was met by the head of Heskey, his great downward header was ran onto by Owen. He let it bounce and then hit a cracking volley to make it 3-1 to England. It was just getting better and better for the young lions.

German heads didn’t go down after the third goal and they started to revert to the possession based football that they are renowned for. Ballack should have done better after Jancker sacrificed a clear-cut chance from six-yards . As Ballack lined up his shot, no-one would have been surprised to see the net bulge once he let go but instead the ball went way above Seaman’s goal.

Hat-trick hero Owen

The midfield was being dominated by David Beckham and Steven Gerrard as they chased every cause and didn’t give the Germans time to settle and play controlled football. It was indeed a Steven Gerrard interception that led to the goal that will forever live in the hearts of England supporters.

Germany were looking dangerous and attacking near the centre circle. Gerrard stuck out a leg and got the ball. He then played a diagonal ball in front of Owen who was sprinting towards the German box with lightning speed. He took one touch to push it in front of him and he went marauding into the penalty area. The goalkeeper used all his experience to narrow the angle but it was all in vain as Owen hit a sweet shot and the ball ended up in the top of the net. Owen had become the first player since Geoff Hurst in 1966 to score a hat-trick against Germany.

Heskey completes the rout

The job was just about done for England and they eased off the pressure a bit and allowed Germany to attack.

Ferdinand headed the ball high in the heart of his defence and then headed his own header to Paul Scholes. Scholes then started to run forward and played a crisp one-two with David Beckham. Scholes played a pin-point pass that allowed Heskey to run into the area. One-on-one against Kahn he placed the ball right into the bottom left corner to make it 5-1.

The rest of the game was largely uneventful but the England fans didn’t care, as they had beaten their biggest rivals 5-1 in their own ground. It was the stuff of dreams and legends were born.

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