Despite bungled call, England is no match for Germany
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa — The Germans power on, but the English become the third of Europe’s big five soccer nations to depart the World Cup woefully short of living up to their billing.
Germany thrashed England, 4-1, yesterday. The score leaves little room for equivocation or excuse. Yet there was one: Before halftime, with Germany ahead, 2-1, and England seemingly in the ascendancy, the referee ruled out a clear tying goal.
It was not even a close call. Frank Lampard’s lob over the goalkeeper struck the crossbar and fell 18 inches behind the goal line. Neither the Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda, nor his linesman, was sufficiently up with play to award it.
You can call it incompetent officiating. You can call as loud as you wish for goal-line technology. But as England coach Fabio Capello complained moments after his team’s elimination, “The mistake of the linesman, and I have to say also the referee, is inexplicable because from the bench I saw the ball in the net. I no understand this decision.’’
Capello may struggle to find the right words in English, but his reasoning was sound. How, in 2010, when television technology exists to show from four different angles that a goal is a goal, can it be disallowed?
How can FIFA, which boasts of making $3.2 billion on the current four-year World Cup cycle, deny the right of players to be granted a goal when viewers from Bloemfontein to Timbuktu can see the unfairness?
Well, fate has a habit of waiting a long, long time to settle old scores.
Ask any German old enough to remember Wembley Stadium, 1966, and they will tell you that England beat Germany in the World Cup final with a goal that should never have been allowed.
Franz Beckenbauer, perhaps the most accomplished German soccer player of all time, never tires of saying to any Englishman who shakes his hand that maybe England deserved the Cup that day — but the ball shot by Geoff Hurst against the crossbar bounced down without crossing the line.
History repeats itself, or rather history wipes the slate clean. The difference of course is 44 years, a lifetime of technological changes in the world but not adopted by soccer.
However, it is not because of yesterday’s loss that Capello is considering whether he wishes to remain or resign as England’s coach.
He was asked four times and all he would say was: “I have to decide. I have to speak with the chairman to see if he has confidence in me or not.’’
If Capello should go, it could on paper cost the English Football Association more than $18 million because it signed a two-year extension with Capello just before the tournament.
But Capello alone is not responsible for England’s inadequacies.
Driving down to Bloemfontein yesterday, the roads were packed with English supporters, led to believe, as during every fourth summer since 1966, that it had the players to show the world how to play the game England invented.
Germans have a way of disputing that. Their players and England’s players down the decades have contested World Cup elimination games, with their followers hyping their teams. The English in particular pay fortunes to follow their team to painful disillusionment.
The disallowed goal in Bloemfontein should not disguise that Germany was superior on the field. Its emerging young talents — Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, and Sami Khedira to name three — completely outplayed England’s aging household names.
Even an older German, a Pole who chose to represent Germany, could outfox this England defense. Miroslav Klose is an enigma to his club, Bayern Munich, for whom he seldom gets in the game, but at three World Cups now he has led Germany’s attack, and been among the top scorers at each.
His goal after 20 minutes exposed England. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer booted the ball from one end of the field to the other, and Klose too quick, too strong, too persistent for Matthew Upson.
As Upson tried to foul him, Klose tenaciously scored his 50th goal in 99 matches for Germany. As easy as that.
Germany’s second goal had more quality in the buildup, with Ozil, Klose, and Muller all moving and passing the ball quicker than the Englishmen could think until, finally, Lukas Podolski, unmarked, shot through the legs of goalkeeper David James.
Game over? Not quite. What England lacks in skills it tries to atone for in spirit. From a corner kick, Steven Gerrard played a high ball into the goalmouth, Neuer and defender Jerome Boateng failed to cut it out, and Upson headed England back into the match.
Moments later, with Germany reeling, came Lampard’s goal that never was.
“You never know the psychology of football,’’ Capello said after the game. “At that time we were the better side, but at 3-1 Germany was able to play counterattack.’’
The third and fourth goals were created with clinical passing, and finished with almost embarrassing ease by Muller, a 20-year-old forward for Bayern Munich.