ON THIS DAY IN 2001: England went to Munich for a World Cup qualifier, and after going a goal down the Three Lions roared back for one of their most famous victories
Jamie Carragher had come through the ranks with Michael Owen at Liverpool, progressing all the way up to the first-team.
The pair had won the FA Youth Cup together, as well as the treble of League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup in the months prior to this trip to Munich, but as substitute Carragher made his way to the England dressing room at half-time of the World Cup qualifier against Germany on September 1, 2001, he could never have imagined what he was about to see from Owen.
The forward was hyped up having equalised following Carsten Jancker’s opener for the hosts, with Owen and Carragher’s Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard then spearing in a brilliant drive past Oliver Kahn and into the bottom corner in the fourth minute of first half stoppage-time.
“I remember thinking to myself: ‘Just get a good touch on it, try and set it for a strike on goal,'” Gerrard would later say.
“My touch was perfect for once and I got fantastic contact – the pitch was wet and I put enough power on it to slide past a top keeper in Oliver Kahn.”
Germany 1 England 2.
And Owen was ecstatic.
“Michael Owen rushed into the dressing room like a man possessed, stared wide-eyed into the faces of his teammates and offered a damning verdict on the opposition,” says Carragher in the opening to the chapter on the match in his book ‘The Greatest Games’, which he referred to in his Telegraph column shortly before England faced Germany at Euro 2020.
“‘This lot are f****** s***!’ he yelled.
“It was half-time in Munich, and I was one of the substitutes for England’s World Cup qualifier against Germany as Michael channelled his inner Tony Adams.
“In the eight years I was Michael’s roommate and colleague, I never saw him so animated.”
He had good reason to be.
England’s tails were up, especially as Germany’s Sebastian Deisler had missed a sitter shortly before Gerrard’s screamer past Kahn, who had said that he wasn’t too concerned about the Liverpool talent before the game.
He was now.
It took England just three minutes into the second half before they extended their lead, with Emile Heskey nodding down for Owen to pounce.
Gerrard then teed up Owen for his third and England’s fourth in the 66th minute – with Owen becoming the first England player since Geoff Hurst to net a treble against Germany or West Germany. And you know when that was.
For Owen it was a moment and a match that would add further credence to the suggestion that, right then, he was one of the best forwards on the planet. He would pick up the Ballon d’Or at the end of 2001.
His was the name on everyone’s lips, unfortunately so for the Germany defender Christian Worns, who very quickly became the subject of the local finger-pointing.
“Everyone thinks I’m the guilty man for what Owen did to us,” he said, via a 2016 Guardian article recalling the game.
“I wasn’t even on the pitch in the second half when he scored two goals, so others should be taking the blame.
“The whole nation has been slaughtering me and making out I’m the one to blame for our downfall. Because of that I’m not in the mood to play any more football for the national team.”
And so he quit. For a bit.
Worns was just 29 at the time, and a regular for Borussia Dortmund where he was about to win the Bundesliga. He was eventually convinced to come back to the Germany fold, winning the final one of his 66 caps in 2005.
It wasn’t just Owen that had been causing him and the Germany defence problems though, with Heskey soon racing onto a Scholes pass for the fifth.
“I didn’t get the best of first touches, but I made sure I kept it low enough and hard enough to slot past Oliver Kahn,” Heskey said when recalling the game earlier this summer, via Bookmakers.co.uk.
“It’s the game that I always get stopped for whenever I’m out and about, all over the world that is, because there are England fans everywhere. I get a lot of thanks for that.”
A lot of thanks, but also a fairly cruel song. “Even Heskey scored” was the chant, although in fairness he had just come off the back of a 22-goal season for Liverpool, his best as a professional.
The fifth was the manager’s favourite goal too.
“Rio Ferdinand wins a duel with his head, then Paul Scholes plays the ball inside to David Beckham, who comes inside, I don’t know why but that’s okay!” said Sven-Goran Eriksson in a tactical video recalling the game in 2019.
“After that, Scholes makes a run in the deep and Beckham sees that, and plays him in. Scholes gets the ball, sees a badly organised Germany, sees Heskey running in the deep. He’s free with the goalkeeper and he scores.
“So that’s a typical goal in a counter-attack. The ball goes from Ferdinand, very quickly, a few touches, and boom! 5-1. Goodnight for Germany!”
A good night indeed.
Even if it hasn’t always been a good 20 years which have followed for England.