Yesterday’s English tabloids are all splashed with images of Rob Green’s howler following England’s 1-1 draw in their opening match at World Cup 2010 on Saturday night. The West Ham netminder’s calamity was endemic of a hugely disappointing overall team performance from Fabio Capello’s side.
The Italian manager was brought in by the FA amid much fanfare and an impressive qualifying campaign followed. Last night’s awful display may have caused the Italian to reassess his adopted country’s side’s chances of success and the media have definitely changed their opinion on the Italian.
Cutting through all this morning’s newspaper guff, the message is clear; if England fail to progress from this group, Capello and his players will have nowhere to hide. It would be the most embarrassing performance by an English side ever at a World Cup.
How did England perform then?
Rob Green will have nightmares about the calamity of failing to hold on to a speculative Clint Dempsey long-range effort and then spilling the ball over his own line. The general consensus is that Green only started due to David James’s lack of fitness and Joe Hart’s lack of experience. He may well watch Friday’s encounter with Algeria from the bench because of that error.
Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole’s foray’s forward bodes well for the remainder of the tournament but John Terry looked jittery without Rio Ferdinand next to him. Losing Ledley King to injury at half-time was a blow but the decision to even bring the injury-prone Spurs centre-half must surely be questioned. His replacement Jamie Carragher was booked and looked a yard short of the required pace at international level.
Steven Gerrard took his fourth-minute goal superbly but after that both he and Lampard looked disjointed in the centre of the park and failed to impose their authority on the game.
James Milner should not have started as he has been ill for most of the week and his only contribution was a booking before being hauled off for Shaun Wright-Phillips after only 30 minutes.
The Manchester City winger made little impact and questions have to be asked of Capello as to why he didn’t bring on Joe Cole instead. His decision to start an obviously unfit Milner was also crass.
Aaron Lennon produced a couple of dazzling runs but the one time he got in behind the USA defence his Achilles heel of failing to provide a quality final ball reared its ugly head once again and the Americans easily cleared. The Spurs winger should improve as the competition progresses but must add a final delivery to his dazzling pace.
Wayne Rooney had a quiet evening by his own high standards so credit to the USA defence for restricting the Manchester United attacker’s influence. The problem for Rooney was the lack of quality ball into his feet from a lethargic midfield. Instead long balls to his strike-partner Emile Heskey and his substitute replacement Peter Crouch were the order of the day.
The much-maligned Heskey did set up Gerrard for England’s opener with a beautiful first-time pass but after that reverted to type and was more a battering ram than a useful foil for Rooney which is apparently the reason Capello selected him. Should have scored in a one-on-one with Tim Howard but fluffed his lines and shot straight at the Everton net-minder.
Full credit must go to the USA for producing a battling and determined display with no shortage of skill. Donovan, Altidore and Bradley were the pick of the bunch and if the Americans can repeat last night’s performance then there is no reason they cannot go on and beat both Algeria and Slovenia to progress to the next stage.
Capello’s England were simply awful. They could not build on the cushion of scoring an early goal and instead struggled dismally to carve out enough chances to breach a well-drilled USA defence. Failure to retain possession, insistence on using the long ball to Heskey as a first attacking option and some calamitous defending combined to make it a night to forget.
A point garnered in your opening group game against tough opponents means all is not lost although failure to defeat either Algeria or Slovenia could prove catastrophic. A poor start and England simply have to improve.
Ger McCarthy is author of the book entitled \’Off Centre Circle’, published by the Evening Echo, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork amateur soccer player.