Germany played spoilsports by defeating England in a special ‘The Legends’ fixture at the Boleyn Ground on Bank Holiday Monday.
Unfortunately, England were not able to repeat their 1966 FIFA World Cup final success 50 years on as Germany ran out comfortable 7-2 winners – albeit with a squad full of former internationals, while the hosts fielded actors, comedians, football freestylers and Betway competition winner Jason Purewall.
Before all the changes, the opening exchanges were typically competitive as two star-studded squads full of international stars of days gone by took to the hallowed east London turf.
Lifelong Hammer Ray Winstone led a Three Lions side that included West Ham greats the Ferdinand brothers, Dean Ashton, Trevor Sinclair, John Moncur, David James and Teddy Sheringham.
They were joined by former England internationals Peter Beardsley, Graeme Le Saux, Darren Anderton, one-time World Heavyweight champion David Haye, West Ham-supporting YouTube sensation Spencer Owen, actor Damian Lewis and bevvy of top comedians and television presenters.
Germany, led by captain Michael Ballack, took a far more serious approach.
The former Chelsea star brought with him a team full of former internationals, including Euro 96 winners Fredi Bobic and Dieter Eilts, 1997 European Cup winner Jorg Heinrich and the wonderfully-named Jorg ‘The Hammer’ Albertz.
England started the better of the two sides, but were left to regret spurning a series of presentable chances in the opening 20 minutes.
Anderton saw a well-struck 25-yarder pushed around the post by Jens Lehmann, and another cleared off the line by former Bayer Leverkusen defender Jens Nowotny after rounding the Arsenal legend. Ashton then fired one fierce volley over and saw a second chance disappear when he was robbed by Nowotny as he prepared to shoot.
Germany made the most of those let-offs by scoring twice in the space of nine minutes midway through the first half.
First, former Derby County and Crystal Palace midfielder Marco Reich crossed for Hanno Balitsch to steer past David James on 22, then ex-Hertha Berlin midfielder Marko Rehmer fired home a low right-wing centre from close-range on the half-hour mark.
With a number of meaty tackles flying in on both sides, it was 3-0 a minute before half-time when Balitsch again found space inside the box and fired high past James.
While Winstone handed chances to his whole squad, Ballack retained his starting XI of former senior internationals, and it paid off with two more well-taken goals after the break.
Reich grabbed his third assist of the game on 48 minutes, crossing for David Odonkor to head past James, before the former Borussia Dortmund winger got on the scoresheet himself from substitute Oliver Neuville’s pass.
On 65 minutes, Reich collected a square pass from the same player, ex-Bayer Leverkusen man Neuville, and the No16 fired an accurate finish into the bottom right-hand corner to make it 6-0.
Beardsley then went in goal, replicating the role he played for Newcastle United here 30 years ago, and England finally got the goal they deserved then 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Ben Cohen fired home!
Football freestyler Jeremy Lynch then laid on a second for Cohen before Neuville raced clear to make it 7-2 with just seconds remaining.
England: (First half) James, A.Ferdinand, Le Saux (Mack 18), R.Ferdinand, Howey (Brazier 29), Anderton (Moncur 30, Lewis 45), Wingrove, Beardsley, Sinclair (Lynch), Sheringham, Ashton
England: (Second half) James (Beardsley 68), R.Ferdinand (Barry 58), Mack (Richardson 58), Cohen, Whitehall, Strong, Lewis, Sheringham (Howard 58), Lynch (Deayton 58, Lynch 72), Walsh (Purewall 68), Brazier (S.Owen 58)
Germany: Lehmann, Balitsch (Eilts 57), Owomoyela, Nowotny (Odonkor 81) Albertz, Bobic (Neuville 35), Odonkor (Hannwald 72), Ballack (Unger 72), Rehmer (Herget 68), Heinrich, Reich