Video of the Day: England vs West Germany, June 1985
When England take to the pitch to play Germany in Berlin this evening, there will doubtless be many who will attach a significance to this match that goes way beyond it being a mere international friendly being played at an extremely inconvenient time of the year. The matches between these two nations that have had a great significance have assumed this importance because of a broader context. England and (West) Germany have met in a World Cup final, a World Cup semi-final and a World Cup quarter-final. They’ve played in World Cup qualifiers and a European Championship semi-final. Those are the matches that count for something. Quite what they’re doing playing in Berlin on Easter Saturday is anybody’s guess.
England travelled to Central America on tour in 1985 having had a mixed first half to the decade. The 1982 World Cup’s bizarre format led to them getting eliminated from the competition without having lost a game, but they followed this up by being knocked out of the 1984 European Championships without setting a foot in the host nation, France, after being eliminated in qualifying for the finals of the tournament by Denmark. Qualifying for the 1986 World Cup finals had begun at a canter, with Bobby Robson’s team scoring five against Finland in their opening match, eight in Turkey in their second and then snatching a one-nil win in Northern Ireland in their third. By the summer, though, nerves were starting to show. May 1985 was a horrendous month for football in this country, and events in Bradford and Brussels put stuttering England performances in the shade. A goalless draw in Bucharest against Romania and a one-all draw in Helsinki against Finland, however, even managed to cast something of a pall over the national team that month, as well as a one-nil defeat against Scotland in that annual match.
A trip to Mexico was, therefore, a good opportunity for a couple of weeks in the sun and an opportunity for Bobby Robson to run his eye away from the decaying game at home. England were entered into two mini-tournaments. They would play Italy in the Ciudad de México Cup Tournament, West Germany in the Azteca 2000 Tournament and, somewhat curiously, Mexico in both. Robson’s team blew their chance of an open top bus ride through London upon their return in losing to both Italy and Mexico, but their next match saw them take on West Germany in the Azteca 2000 Tournament. Anybody with the idea that England vs West Germany is a vast global event may have been quickly disavowed of this notion when only 8,000 people turned out to watch it in the vast, 115,000 capacity Azteca Stadium, but those who did turn up were treated to two relatively uncommon events. For one thing, England won the match quite comfortably – this was only their second win against them since 1966, with the other coming in a friendly at Wembley in 1975 – whilst the match also featured a West German penalty being saved by an England goalkeeper. We certainly haven’t seen that since.
The result of this match was rendered something of an irrelevance in terms of the Azteca 2000 Tournament three days later, when Mexico beat West Germany by two goals to nil in the Azteca Stadium three days later to lift that trophy as well. A year later, those two teams would meet again in Mexico City’s other super-stadium, the Estadio Olímpico Universitario, where they would draw one-all before West Germany won by four goals to one in a penalty shootout. The following day, England, who had qualified for the finals by winning their UEFA group – although they only won four of their eight qualifying matches, drawing the other four – were back at the Azteca Stadium. Having won their return to the stadium for the first time since that West Germany match by brushing aside Paraguay in their second round match, England, there was no disinterest around their World Cup quarter-final match. A crowd of 114,580 was in the Azteca Stadium to see England come up against Argentina and the force of nature that was one Diego Armando Maradona.
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