Germany 1 – England 5
The 1st of September 2001 AD
It was almost enough to wipe out memories (for those of us old enough to have them) of the fateful game on June 14 1970 in Leon, during the Mexico World Cup. In 1970 England threw away a two-goal lead (the great Bobby Charlton fatefully subbed by Alf Ramsey to save his legs) to lose 3-2. In 2001, in front of a Munich crowd expecting a German victory England hammered the home side 5-1 after conceding a tame goal.
And it all started so badly, the lumbering giant Carsten Jancker firing the old enemy into the lead just six minutes into the game. A former colleague, so convinced it would be another of those games against the Germans, switched the TV off and went for a long sad walk, only learning what had happened when he called in for a late pint on his way home.
How wrong could he have been? Owen levelled after 12 minutes when Nick Barmby cushioned a header into his path leaving a clear shot from eight yards out. Like Gary Lineker Owen may never have broken the net, but 19 times out of 20 in those days he hit it. Deep into first half injury time another clever header, by Rio Ferdinand on the edge of the German area, found Steven Gerrard who volleyed in from 25 yards, the German keeper seemingly waving it past. Until then Germany were edging it, but in the second half they had gone long before Pierluigi Collina blew for time.
England’s third goal, its occurrence greeted with astonishment by players and fans alike, was yet again produced by a smart header: Heskey to an unmarked Owen close in, quick feet, simple goal. Surely it couldn’t continue? Gerrard nicked the ball in midfield, slotted it diagonally in front of a sprinting Owen, one touch, two, bang the ball flew past Kahn into the top left corner of the net. It’s 4-1, Owen has scored his hat-trick goal in the symbolic 66th minute, the first England player since Geoff Hurst to bag three against Germany. The world is a better place. Can we take any more? Yes, Heskey fed by Scholes slipping the ball past an onrushing Kahn.
This was the so-called Golden Generation at its zenith. The day everything went right. Sven-Goran Eriksson picked the right players for the right places. David Seaman after the first goal played like a mobile wall. David Beckham was on fire, Scholes ran forever, Neville and Cole were the best full-back pairing since Cohen and Wilson in 1966 . Automatic qualification for South Korea and Japan eventually followed, where England lost in the quarters to tournament winners Brazil, Seaman fooled by a 42-yard lobbed free-kick. No cups then, but for one glorious moment at full-time on September 1 2001 that Golden Generation shone brightly enough to dazzle the whole football world.
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