Thursday, 24 June 2010

1966 and all that

So its England versus Germany next for our 90-minute nation.

Its only a game - but what a game. My reflections on the long history on the rivalry in our footballing and national culture can be read on the Staggers blog.

The fear is that England versus Germany brings out the worst in our footballing and media cultures. We should be more confident that this time may be different. There is no need to deny that there is something very special about England versus Germany.

Surely, all that we need to do is to embrace this football rivalry - alongside cricket's Ashes, and since the virtual disappearance of England-Scotland from the football calendar - as one of the great enduring contests in our sporting history.

On the football field, England and Germany have long been, in the title of David Downing's splendid history 'The best of enemies'. So we should embrace our obsession with 1966 and all that is an inevitable, and fairly harmless, feature of national sporting folk memory.

For those of you who think there has been rather a lot of budget fairness and not so much football here on Next Left over the last couple of days, here's my favourite pre-match factoid to impress with your friends with before Sunday:

Germany had never beaten England at football when they came to Wembley for the 1966 World Cup final; but England's famous victory that day was their last competitive victory over Germany for 34 years, until Euro 2000.

Truly a great sporting rivalry of two halves. May the best team win - but not, please, on penalties.

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