Making up is hard to do, especially when rival passions are so eagerly inflamed by onlookers on the sidelines. Sporting rivalry in particular is usually a surrogate for other tensions less easily resolved, although the four-day "football war" between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969 is happily unique. Here, however, every England v Germany game is anticipated at least in some quarters of the press as if it might slide from football field to battle field. It is true that one German newspaper called Rooney a girlie but that's no excuse for the familiar crop of headlines (no prizes for guessing what the Star rhymed with "job done") which belie what has long been a generally warm and constructive diplomatic relationship supported by the exchange of hundreds of thousands of tourists. Historically, the Germans might conceivably carry some of the blame for this, but only if you go back about 75 years to the 1935 friendly, the first contest after the Nazis came to power and one which Hitler regarded as an important test of Europe's readiness to tolerate his regime (a point strongly made by the TUC in representations against the match to the government). The more plausible explanation for the tabloid xenophobia is the one that is often behind hostility – an inferiority complex. Most Germans are entirely relaxed about England games, reserving serious rivalry for matches with the Netherlands. Perhaps this is the real problem: not that Germans think ill of us, but that they do not think about us at all.

This ia a Guardian or Observer editorial column.