England against Germany – one of the most historic rivalries in football suffered from the one aspect of the game that is ancient. Despite an overpowering German second-half performance, the decision not to allow a second English goal has again influenced a high-profile contest.
Frank Lampard’s opportunistic effort bounced off the bar and landed comfortably over the line, only for all four officials to fail to award the goal. Sepp Blatter has fought off the campaign for technology to be used in football, but this was another glaring chink in his armour. FIFA had instructed the fourth officials to provide greater support the main official at this year‘s tournament, yet Jorge Larrionda was given no assistance, and cut an isolated figure as his half-time whistle was drowned out by a chorus of boos from English fans.
2 Johnson – 6 Terry – 15 Upson – 3 A Cole
16 Milner – 4 Lampard – 14 Barry – 8 Gerrard
19 Defoe – 10 Rooney
Coach Fabio Capello stood by the team that beat Slovenia, meaning Matthew Upson kept his place alongside John Terry. England’s main concern however was that they weren’t at all together. They rarely communicated, and Terry’s rash decision to pre-empt Michael Neuer’s lengthy goal kick left him astray from his defensive colleague. Miroslav Klose galloped into the space between the defensive duo, before fending off Upson to poke the ball past David James. With England‘s defence still stretched, Mesut Ozil was next to exploit the space between Upson and Terry. The Werder Bremen playmaker slipped Klose in again, only for James to produce one of several saves that denied a rampant German outfit in the first half hour.
The tempo of England’s performance reverted back to that of their opening two games. By stark contrast, Germany looked to soak up any English pressure before surging forward to counter-attack against a fragile defensive system. England’s full-backs foraged forward, Steven Gerrard bombed on and the wide players stayed wide, leaving Gareth Barry and the central defensive pairing to fend off a wave of German attackers. And after wasting similar chances before the break, Thomas Muller clinically killed the tie off striking twice in three minutes. The difference in formations played into German favour. With Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger sitting to protect, Gerrard was outnumbered in advanced midfield areas. Ozil found himself in space between the English defence and midfield on a number of occasions, and the more space England allowed him, the more they had to scramble back to prevent another German onslaught.
As England limp out of the World Cup at the second round, fingers will be pointed in a number of directions. Larrionda will face vitriol as had England levelled the game up before half-time, things may have been different. England’s top performers – many claimed that they could handle the occasion better than their German counterparts – were second best to a side that have quickly come of age. The Germany team were made up of three players that demolished England in the European under-21 final last June, and had four representatives in this year’s Champions League final, so have been tested sufficiently along the way. Yet the German level of experience and pressure situations are dwarfed by the spine of England’s team alone. Following Lampard’s unrewarded strike, he hit the bar and toiled to find a way back into the game. But the Three Lions again lacked pace, incision and a killer instinct. Muller’s double epitomised everything the England side are missing – players running from deep granting the player in possession with a number of options, the pace and skill to beat defenders and someone who can stick the ball in the net. England have only scored three times in the tournament, but mustered decent opportunities in all four of their games.
Capello’s tactics were stifled by the two defensive midfielders deployed by Joachim Low, which allowed Lucas Podolski, Ozil and Muller to join Klose in repeatedly testing James. The Portsmouth keeper can hold his head high after preventing Germany time and time again. He played with a pride for the country he was representing but also the haunting feeling that this is his last chance at a World Cup with his country. The rest are of age where they may get another cahnce but after such a lacklustre display, whether they warrant such an honour is another matter.
Germany 4 – 1 England: Klose 20, Podolski 32, Muller 67, 70 – Upson 37
Germany: Neuer – Lahm, Mertesacker, Freidrich, Boateng – Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Muller (Trochowski 72), Ozil (Kiessling 83), Podolski – Klose (Gomez 72)
England: James – Johnson (Wright-Phillips 87), Terry, Upson, A Cole – Milner (J Cole 63), Lampard, Barry, Gerrard – Rooney, Defoe (Heskey 71)