Column One: 1966 and all that: England face the old enemy

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The Independent Online
WHEN SEPP Blatter, the head of football's governing body, opened yesterday's World Cup draw in Tokyo, he said football should be about "friendship".

Sir Bobby Charlton and Franz Beckenbauer, footballing rivals and friends, had been sitting together during the draw for the qualifying stages of the 2002 competition.

It was more than an hour after the proceedings opened that it became clear Germany would be placed in European Group Nine with England, Greece, Finland and Albania. As the sound of a thousand gasps filled the auditorium, Beckenbauer and Charlton acknowledged the irony.

They played against each other at Wembley in 1966 when England won the World Cup final. Four years later Beckenbauer inspired West Germany to victory in the heat of Mexico as England, with Charlton withdrawn to save him for the next round, let slip a 2-0 lead in the quarter-final. Then there were the two semi-final penalty shoot-outs in the 1990 World Cup and at Wembley in Euro 96, both of which England lost.

More recently the pair have become ambassadors for their nation's respective bids to host the 2006 competition. Their paths cross frequently, notably in Barcelona in May, when Manchester United, Charlton's old club, of which he is now a director, beat Bayern Munich, Beckenbauer's old club, of which he is now president, in the European Cup Final.

Yesterday Charlton said: "My first thought was `Here we go again' but there's nothing to be afraid of. I didn't want to avoid Germany because they are superior to us, I just wanted something exotic and we play them so many times. But now I'm quite excited; there always seems to be high drama coming out of the fixture."

Then he went off, like Beckenbauer, to pack for another draw, on Sunday, in Brussels. This is for next summer's European Championships. There is a one-in-four chance of England and Germany being paired. The draw, page 32