It doesn’t take much to make Marko Rehmer laugh. Loud even. In this specific case, a simple statement is enough: On Tuesday, the German national soccer team will play against England in Munich.
Germany versus England. In Munich. There was something? It’s correct. It’s almost 21 years since the two teams met in Munich in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup, back then in the Olympic Stadium. Marko Rehmer, Hertha BSC defender, was in the starting XI for the Germans and had an unforgettable evening – even if he can’t remember the details. “I don’t think we had our best day as a collective,” he says. “But now you can laugh about it.”
Back then it was different. At least for the Germans.
In England, of course, one looks back on this game with gold-rimmed feelings. When the television broadcast hits the scoreboard two minutes before the end, BBC commentator John Motson says, “Look at that.” And encourages viewers to breathe in the image.
The game isn’t even over yet, it’s already a myth. And like so many myths, this one has long since overshadowed reality. “Ultimately, the result speaks for itself,” says Marko Rehmer. One. To. Five. You really don’t need to know more. “The German team is being dismantled in a way we’ve never experienced in a home stadium,” says Gerd Rubenbauer, the ARD commentator, at the end of his live broadcast.
The game can still be found online in its entirety, with commentary from John Motson and former international Trevor Brooking as expert at his side. “Sit back and enjoy,” says the BBC reporter as the game begins.
For the Germans it becomes a nightmare. September 1, 2001 went down as one of the lowest points in the history of the national team. “It was a throwback to the Stone Age,” says defender Christian Wörns, who forms the back three with Thomas Linke and libero Jens Nowotny.
He will be substituted at the break. Marko Rehmer, who previously played as a right-back, takes his place.
Nothing is sacred after this game. The system with Libero: hopelessly outdated. The defenders: too slow and clumsy. Michael Ballack, the great young hope in midfield: a jaded handsome player who breaks away at the slightest resistance. Dietmar Hammann, the six: hopelessly overwhelmed with control in midfield. Ballack and Hamann, according to the Tagesspiegel, “showed the commitment of old stars in a charity game”.
If you watch the encounter again in full length, some things are put into perspective. Of course, the Germans aren’t good with their stuffy 1980s football, but they’re not as bad as they were made out to be in hindsight either. At least not compared to the English, who are praised to the skies after the historic victory. “You didn’t dream. I swear,” says BBC reporter Motson. “It’s a night to be proud to be English.”
For the Germans it is the heaviest home defeat in 70 years, and against one of their arch-rivals in football. Of course, that sets the tone of the reporting. Summer is coming to an end in Munich that evening. After a few nice days, which the team spent at the Schlosshotel Oberambach on Lake Starnberg, it started to rain during the game. It’s getting cold, and that’s also true in a figurative sense.
It’s almost exactly a year since Rudi Völler took over the national team as team boss. Since then, the mood in German football had improved significantly. On this evening in Munich, however, the fundamental concerns return. Is the quality still good enough or is it back for the international top? The appearance against England raises serious doubts about this.
With a win, the national team could have qualified for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea one matchday before the end. It starts right away. After five minutes, Carsten Jancker puts the Germans in the lead. The FC Bayern striker scores after a header from Oliver Neuville. But then the team loses more and more control. Michael Owen scored the equalizer after almost a quarter of an hour. It is the first of three goals scored by the Liverpool striker that evening.
Only after the 1:1 do the Germans find their way around better. It’s a fairly balanced duel at a manageable level. BBC reporter Motson complained about the unusual number of simple mistakes made by both sides shortly before the break. Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn picks up a back pass from Sebastian Deisler with his hands. There is an indirect free kick for the English in the German penalty area. David Beckham steps up – and meets Marko Rehmer, who is next to the left post.
It’s England’s best chance before the break; Deisler misses the best for the Germans in the middle of the first half when he shoots seven yards from goal but fails to hit the ball properly. At this point there is nothing to suggest that the evening will end in historic victory for the English and epic defeat for the Germans.
Shortly before the break, goalkeeper David Seaman prevented the Germans from taking the lead again with a good reflex shot by Jörg Böhme. Immediately afterwards, after three minutes of overtime, Steven Gerrard scored from 25 meters to make it 2-1. And immediately after the restart, the guests increase to 3:1 through Owen. Directly before the 1:4, Michael Ballack has a great chance to score, before Emile Heskey’s 1:5, Seaman clears with his foot just before Rehmer. The guests shoot at the German goal three times after the break, the ball is in it three times. “There wasn’t a game like that very often,” says Rehmer. “Fortunately.” Stupid goals at unfortunate times.