Leighton Baines scored a stunning 25-yard goal to give England a deserved first-leg lead in their European Championship play-off against Germany.
Walcott (right) had a superb game for England
Baines arrowed a shot into the top corner to the delight of a sell-out crowd at Coventry's Ricoh Arena.
Wayne Routledge also hit the post with a low shot while German keeper Michael Rensing gave an inspired display to deny Routledge and Anton Ferdinand.
Germany rarely threatened but Aaron Hunt and Stefan Kiessling went close.
England settled quickly and the excellent Tom Huddlestone saw a well-struck 20-yard shot saved by Rensing.
That early save set the tone for the impressive Rensing who had a busy first half.
He came rushing out to block a fierce Routledge drive and also denied Baines with a decent one-handed stop.
Arsenal teenager Theo Walcott, the only England player on display with a full cap, was a constant threat on the left flank with his searing pace and trickery.
Walcott, David Nugent and Routledge formed a formidable front three and the German rearguard struggled to deal with their movement.
England also threatened from set-pieces and Ferdinand had a fine header tipped over the bar by Rensing.
But despite the home side's dominance, the Germans reached the break on level terms.
Routledge almost broke the deadlock after the restart but fizzed a 20-yard effort against the post and Nigel Reo-Coker burst through on goal only to once again be denied by the defiant Rensing.
England's eagerness to grab a first-leg lead almost saw them caught on the break but Germany's final ball let them down too often when they had a man over in attack.
Hunt, who has an English mother, curled a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty box.
Kiessling was also unlucky not to get a shot away on Scott Carson's goal after a fine run from another dangerous German break.
But with a goalless draw looking likely Baines put England in command when his unstoppable effort flew past Rensing.
There was still time for Kiessling to miss a glorious chance from five yards but England held on to take a 1-0 lead into Tuesday's second leg in Leverkusen.
The winners of the tie will reach next year's European Championship finals in Holland.
England U-21 coach Peter Taylor:
"I think Steve McClaren would have been very impressed with the team - they really looked like a team.
"He would be pleased with the pacy players, we were a touch away from scoring more so he'll be pleased with that.
"We arranged to speak after the game, I'm sure when I turn my phone on there will be some nice texts saying `well done'.
"It was a massive game and the players can be pleased with their performance."
England U21: Carson, Richards, Baines, Steven Taylor, Ferdinand, Huddlestone, Reo-Coker, Milner, Walcott (Young 66), Nugent (Watson 81), Routledge (Agbonlahor 71).
Subs Not Used: Camp, Hoyte, Kilgallon, Whittingham.
Booked: Huddlestone, Ferdinand.
Goals: Baines 77.
Germany U21: Rensing, Reinhardt, Ochs, Brzenska, Matip, Castro, Boateng (Dum 78), Polanski (Otti 45), Kiessling, Hunt, Gonez.
Subs Not Used: Tschauner, Bieler, Freis, Hilbert, Kruska.
Booked: Boateng, Ochs, Kiessling.
Ref: Matteo Trefoloni (Siena).