When England take to the field at Wembley, the self-styled 'home of football', on Tuesday, it will be to resume our national team's greatest rivalry. Forget the Scots, because that's just local. Forget the French, because we just don't care enough. Forget the Irish, because that is more political than sporting. The Germans, that's who we want to beat the most. It's 1914-1918, you see. It's 1939-1945.
Except that it really isn't anymore, is it? Because this is football and that was war. As much as football is all-encompassing, absorbing and pretty f*cking fantastic, anyone that equates it to deaths on a battlefield, to the innocent and largely naïve fighting the innocent and largely naïve, needs their head checking.
What's more, no-one actually does think that anymore, do they? I would be very surprised if many (or any) fans were walking down Wembley Way with the mind-set of "Goodness, I hope we teach these 11 chaps a lesson for those two wars". Of course they're not.
What some rabid fans are now is a product of a jingoistic national tendency to focus nostalgically on past glory, and the two World Wars (in end result terms, rather than the unfathomably tragic loss of life) are seen as England's two greatest national achievements of the 20th century.
Given how entwined football is with our national psyche, it doesn't take much of a leap to suggest that the World Cup win in 1966 would be number three on such a list. Ignore the full discovery of DNA's importance, the impact of widely available vaccines or the NHS, just think football.
This 'rivalry' is then hardwired into us through continuous positive reinforcement through large swathes of the national media. For those that think I'm making them an easy target, just look here or here. Or here. Or here. You get my point, and yes that last one does have images of Michael Ballack and Adolf Hitler in the same story.
These are, thankfully, reducing over time, but taking a look at Twitter's dark underbelly (the search function) on Tuesday will only serve to demonstrate just how entrenched and pandemic such feelings have become.
The rather ironic problem given all this mouth-frothing and pant-wetting is that England v Germany (in football terms) is not a rivalry, merely one-sided antagonism. For something to reach rivalry status, both parties have to have similar desperation to end victorious. Of course, if Germany come up against England in the World Cup they will want to win desperately but, for them, it is the end result that is crucial, not the opponent.
The Germans just don't care enough about England to make it a rivalry. German football journalist Raphael Honigstein spells out the sad fact: "A lot of German people are not even aware there is an England v Germany rivalry." Instead they save their footballing hostility for the Dutch, an enmity based in both geographical and competitive animosity. Honigstein then hammers home the final nail - "A lot of German people would much rather see England win the World Cup than Italy or the Dutch or even Spain." That's far removed from the attitude of a rival.
Finally, there is the wonderful story of a German man living in London, questioned by a Sky News reporter about the 5-1 in Munich 2001 a few days before the World Cup match in 2010. "Yes," said the German. "I see the DVD is still selling in shops." That's almost sympathetic patronising. Ouch.
Such faux-rivalry is perennially established by the less-successful side at the time. That's why Fulham supporters see Chelsea as a big game whilst Chelsea care more about Tottenham and Arsenal. Or Bradford fans care about Huddersfield, who in turn care more about Leeds, who in turn care more about Manchester United. A rivalry food chain, if you will.
In such a food chain, we are evidently below Germany. 'Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field,' is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines 'rivalry', and it is patently clear that England and Germany are operating in different spheres, despite their presence in the same tournaments. Realistic England supporters would see a quarter-final finish in Brazil as a fine achievement, whilst realistic Germans want to win the damned thing. Since 1966, Germany have been in 11 major tournament finals and five other semi-finals. England have been in two semi-finals, which they lost. To Germany.
"One World Cup and two World Wars," the mindless morons will sing. "Three World Cups, three European Championships and economic sustainability of which you could only currently dream," the German fans won't chant back. And why would they? After all, they've got the best teams in the world to worry about.
Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter
Obviously written by someone who has never lived in Germany. Any older German is perfectly aware that they didn't beat England for the first time until 1968, and despite the dominance of their national team since the 70s there is a lot of frustration that English clubs have dominated in Europe. Since the end of Bayern's run in the mid 70s English clubs have won 11 European Cups to only 4 by German teams, including losing all 5 times when they have faced English teams in the final. Throw in a couple of losses in UEFA/ Cup Winners Cup finals and English clubs have been the German's bogeyman. As for the idea that the rivalry with the Dutch is much greater and based only on football ability. Well, let's be clear .. the Dutch hate the German because their country was invaded and occupied. The Germans can comfortably admit to a rivalry with the Dutch because they don't risk any association with the war; the Dutch after all didn't turn around and invade Germany. The rivalry is in fact all about the war; on one side remembering what happened, on the other side trying to avoid being reminded.- meanonsunday