Archive for June, 2010

First of all, credit where credit is due: England were outclassed by Germany, and no amount of finger-pointing over Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal will change that. The more deserving side won the day.

Now, having gotten that off my chest:

Would somebody please tell me how exactly this wasn’t a goal? The refereeing at this World Cup has been shockingly inadequate, and FIFA’s continued resistance to introducing goal-line technology or at least goalside assistant referees is little more than idiocy. Too many legitimate goals have been disallowed, too many offside goals allowed to stand.

Having said that, I don’t think that this goal would have changed much. Chances are, England would have lost 4-2 instead of 4-1 had the goal been allowed, and (again) deservedly so.

One could argue that going into half-time having pulled level instead of trailing, the England team might have had better morale for the second half, but… the defense was torn apart for the third and fourth Germany goals, and in almost exactly the same way as for their first.

When a team makes a defensive blunder… well, it happens, you get over it. When the team makes essentially the same defensive blunder three times, perhaps some questions need to be asked, both of the players and the coach. England looked dangerous at times going forward (despite only scoring 3 goals in 4 games), but were a disaster at the back.

Part of the problem, I believe, is that the team was largely constructed around one individual – Wayne Rooney. Any time you build the team around one guy, you’re screwed if that one guy can’t produce the goods. Rooney was underwhelming at best in this World Cup.

Maybe if Robert Green hadn’t let in that goal against the Americans, maybe if Rooney had converted those chances against Algeria, maybe if Lampard’s goal had been properly awarded… maybe, maybe, maybe.

If you can’t perform well enough to overcome maybes, you don’t deserve to be there.

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Robert Green, that is. Few English soccer fans will ever forget the unfortunate goal let in by England’s goalkeeper against the United States on Saturday, and it may prove to be a defining moment in Robert Green’s career.

The other players on the England team – and indeed US goalie Tim Howard – offered words of support for Green after his mishap, and while it is true that most players have at some point choked at a crucial moment of a big game, there is no doubt that a mistake like that can haunt a player for the remainder of his footballing life. The British media have been typically savage in their treatment of Green, running headlines such as ‘Hand of Clod’ on the back pages of newspapers.

The questions is, where do we go from here? If the coach fields a different keeper against Algeria on Friday, this will not only be a vote of no confidence in Green (from which he is unlikely to recover during this tournament) but will also suggest to the other goalkeepers in the squad that they are subject to being removed if they themselves screw up, which will hurt their own confidence. On the other hand, persisting with Green in goal will provide a boost to him personally, but may leave England vulnerable if other opponents try to capitalize on whatever doubts may linger in his mind.

To be fair, Green pulled off a fantastic save in the second half of the game – not enough to redeem himself, necessarily, but enough to suggest he has the strength of character to grow from this and redouble his efforts.

Hopefully Capello will choose to stick with Green. That would perhaps be the lesser of two evils, at least.

A deeper problem is the lack of world-class goalkeeping talent in England. David James is pushing 40, and has been known to commit a few egregious errors in his time as well. Joe Hart, at 23, is showing good form at club level but is sorely inexperienced on the international stage. Paul Robinson, Chris Kirkland and Ben Foster are not by any means bad goalkeepers, but were not considered good enough to make the England team for this World Cup.

There has yet to be a man between the goalposts whom I would consider a worthy successor to David Seaman. Perhaps Hart will get there, but it’s unlikely to happen in the next week or two. Perhaps there’s a young player at a training academy somewhere who will take up the mantle of “England’s Number One” by the next World Cup. We can certainly hope.

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