England v USA

So much for Capello’s transformation: it was the soul-sappingly familiar England last night, unable to pass the ball efficiently or be sufficiently sharp to overcome inferior opponents. Reassuring early promise subsided into muddling mediocrity until a final flourish almost convinced me that we were unlucky. Even if something had gone in, it would have served only to paper over the cracks.

Green’s mistake might end his career, never mind his tournament. The tabloids, scenting headlines and blood, will not be nearly as generous as the pundits on both channels, but it will be nothing compared with the assault from fans behind each and every away goal next season. For years, Campbell scuttled away from the touchline at the Lane but keepers suffer particularly badly because of course they can’t escape the crowd so easily, however much they may be intent on examining the markings on the 18 yard line when the ball’s up the other end. Chelsea’s excellent Peter Bonetti was taunted to the end of his career after the Germany game in 1970, and that was in a much gentler age: ‘Bonetti lost the World Cup, and so say all of us..’. How Green might wish for something that gentle.

His error was down to technique – he didn’t move his feet. Even when he saved later from Altadore, his technique was exposed, this time he did not get his hands together quickly. However, the decisive factor in the match was England’s failure to sustain their control after the euphoria of Gerrard’s excellent opener died down. Instead of passing our way forward and retaining possession, we played the long ball too often (Ledley being guilty a few times, sad to say) and never settled into any rhythm. The US had come with a pressing game and we fell right into their hands. They certainly had the better chances until our last late attacks, and we were fortunate that Altadore remembered everything he learned at Hull last season.

I’m part of the Guardian’s World Cup Fans’ Network, which is a lot of fun but in my case proved only that I can’t concentrate on the game and tweet at the same time. To my twitter followers not interested in football, I can only apologise for the assault on your in-boxes last night. Wasted here, though, because you won’t be reading this. Anyway, my England preview is still up there but has been cruelly manhandled. Just before I retire to the nearest garret, existing for the rest of my days suffering for my art, the original welcomed both Milner and Heskey into the team. Heskey did well as target man but you knew that run and shot was less the 5-1 against Germany and much more about his unerring ability to find the keeper. I also noted how many of the squad had been off-form, injured or both this season. MIlner was one of the few exceptions, until the tournament itself. Clearly he had not recovered from his illness. I wonder if in his understandable eagerness to play he minimised his condition to the medical staff.

Gerrard was excellent but he can’t be expected to do the job of two people, however hard he tries and often succeeds. Rooney grew increasingly frustrated as he was restricted to a central role. When he broke out of the shackles later, he became more influential but in coming deeper, no one took his place further forward.

Now to Spurs. Ledley King’s awareness, timing of his interceptions (you can’t really call them tackles) and his pace over ten yards equip him to excel at the highest level, where he deserves to be. In wanting so desperately for this to be his moment, where the nation and the world could at last join Spurs fans in marvelling at his quality and dedication, perhaps I had deluded myself into believing the legs are stronger than they are. The regular games at the end of our season weakened not strengthened those weary muscles and straining sinews. I feel for him. And for an England back four denied pace in the centre.

Lennon played well. He’s worked very hard on his distribution and decision-taking, the result being that he can take two men over to him as cover, then play a simple ball inside where others can exploit the resulting pace. There’s value here, as well as in him flying down the wing, but against the US he underestimated his ability to get past his man and should have done so more often. he used that burst of pace so well at times. His teamplay and passing were impressive for the most part.

It was an ideal situation for Crouch, coming on to face a Championship defender, but it was a pointless substitution because no one supported him. Two good headers were wasted because no one was near him in the box.

The noise, the infernal buzzing in my head, ceaseless, night and day, can’t think…. And that’s just my neighbour renovating his house. The best part of the World Cup, the giddy days of intoxicating optimism and heady solidarity before a ball has been kicked and it all goes wrong, it’s over. Back to reality. Hard graft rather inspiration is required to get out of a group, and we have enough of that to stagger into the next phase. Let’s march on together to inglorious defeat in the quarter finals.

18 thoughts on “England v USA

  1. Sack Capello this afternoon. He can’t even speak English. Bad judgement calls apropos both squad and line-up.

    Bring in ‘Arry or Woy for the rest of the tourno.

    Ledley out of the next match. Bring in Dawson.

    Play Gerrard off Rooney, Joe Cole on the left.

    Drop Green. Play Hart.



  2. A marked improvement on our last three friendly’s,although as mentioned by the experts on Talk Sport Rooney does seem a little off colour lately,and by his own admission prefers to play as the loan striker,perhaps with the support of a much coveted Joe Cole?

    The goalkeeping error obviously affected England,and it took some time to recover,I though would not drop Robert Green as he has proved over the previous qualifying campaign to be a good choice.It would also give the wrong message to his replacement,convincing them that one error would cost your place,hence hindering their own performance.Anyway I’m sure this will refocus him for the coming games

    Either way as it was our first game against a team of enthusiastic,and well organized players,who,let’s not forget only recently ended Spain’s thirty nine game unbeaten run in the Copa America,and also held Brasil to a two nil half time scoreline in the same competition.This then should give us some reason to be positive as they hardly looked likely to beat us until that unfortunate incident rocked our confidence,but we reaffirmed our footing and grew as the game went on.

    Fear not then for through the heat of adversity,steel is forged,to be tempered by the coolness of calm authority ( Capello.)


    • Did Capello say that, foggy? Highly profound.

      Fact is, WC groups are usually hard work. We get all excited, rightly so, but even I have forgotten that, always, group performances are up and down.

      We showed plenty of effort and a decent tempo last night, now just if we could pass to each other…


  3. Against the tall defender that the U.S. had I was surprised that Crouch was not brought on earlier.England seemed more dangerous when he was on the field.


    • Yeah, the US were tired by then. We didn’t players to support Crouch – pointless Rooney coming deeper and not being in the box enough.


    • Unlikely. Others will offer a higher salary plus established CL status. Or just the cash. Money talks more sense than Harry.




  4. Some very odd decisions from capello. Green. West ham were down the bottom of the table for a reason and he’s proved to be a bottler before. Shouldn’t even be in the squad. Heskey. He played crouch in the warm up friendlies and then played heskey. Milner. Had been ill
    all week and then replaced him with SWP when joe cole had been england’s best player just a few days earlier. All very strange.


  5. Lennon’s final ball was poor all night. He got into some great positions but just couldn’t find an english player. If that was Walcott, we’d be saying usual Walcott, poor final ball… Bocanegra is sh!te and Lennon should have been beating him all night. Too negative and poor final ball but atleast he turned up, Frank Lampard is on milk cartons again whilst playing for England. Terry, King and Carragher have to be the slowest CBs in the history of football.


    • I must have been watching a different game. I don’t remember Lennon playing many poor balls. He did that excellent through ball for Heskey’s one-on-one – and people forgot that. He got past left back twice and put ball into the 6-yard box. Where was the poor ball? A poor ball is a cross that doesn’t beat first defender or is over hit. It is not Lennon’s fault that England were not playing any goal poaching strikers.


      • Yeah i’ll give you that through ball from the halfway line for Heskey but from all the positions on the wing when he had a chance he either hit the first man or over hit everyone. He had a great chance early on to square it and hit the first man just as one example. Don’t get me wrong, he was far better than Milner or SWP but that wasn’t very hard. My point is when Walcott puts the ball into the 6-yard box and it goes to nobody or the other team, the fans and comms abuse him (rightfully so alot of the time) but I call it as I see it and Lennon was the same last night. If that had been Walcott, we’d all been saying he was awful and can’t make the final ball (mexico friendly).

        I think he looked a bit nervous to be honest (1st world cup game nerves maybe). He’ll be far better in the next game, although neither algeria or Slovakia should test us too much.


    • The old time pros used to say that the winger’s job was to put the balls into the danger areas and it was the job of the strikers to get on the end of them. I think that’s still true, by and large. Remember Lenny was in effect passing the ball into a ridiculously crowded part of the field, so there’s a fair chance even the best ball will be cut out. Credit here to the USA defence who packed their 6 yard box when he got to the byline, had two men on him if possible further out and overloaded their defence on the right side near post to block his crosses. Very much in the manner of Hull and Stoke at the Lane.

      Cheers, Al


  6. Fair and witty summary Alan.
    We are so desperate for our boys to do well that we do see them in a slightly rose-tinted light.
    But I thought that Lennon had as good a game as anyone, maintained his position well and was always an option; laid the ball back to Gerrard when blocked by two and his first time pass to put Heskey through was the ball of the match.
    Crouch was playing on his own which means that his glanced headers are to no-one.
    I think that Capello’s calls all misfired though Heskey had a good game for him.Perhaps its the Wizard of Oz syndrome, pull back the curtain and its not the greatest manager in the World, just a man in a Marks and Spencers suit trying to live up to the hype
    Beckham is on record as saying(to Walcott I think)that his job was to put the ball in the right area and not worry about trying to pick out a player when crossing.
    Ledley was calm but looked off the pace. Hope Daws gets a go.


  7. England did not play as well as they are able to, but neither did the US. English fans should be grateful they were able to keep a point because it could have easily been three points to the Yanks had they played as they did against Spain last summer.


  8. Nice blog and very much in accordance with my own view. Living in Italy now and watching Italian football at Bari each week, the difference between the technical game and the high speed endurance test of the premiership seeems quite marked to me.
    As a final thought, its said that Maradonna tried 100 players in their qualifying campaign and build up. If capello had done the same who do you think we would be down to?
    Incidentally, didnt we work together for LBN 25 years ago!!


    • “He didn’t look much, sitting there in the corner of that dingy office, but as soon as he had the ball at his feet, I knew. Everyone knew. He was always going to be far too good for Canning Town Thursday and when the Italians came calling, the gaffer couldn’t stand in his way. It’s a measure of the man that he hasn’t forgotten his roots and the little men he left behind”.


      • Well thank you for remembering. My agent tells me that the Thursday owe me a testimonial! However, there are worse places for a washed up has been than the shores of the Adriatic.
        You sound well, I am very impressed with the website/blogging and authorship on the Spurs, I shall be a follower from now on.
        I am in the unusual(possibly unique?) position of being a season ticket holder at both Ipswich Town and Bari, though I must confess that the “galleti” are alot more fun. There is nothing like sitting just behind a distress flare to get the juices going.
        if you have a moment,let me know how you are, I,d like to hear.
        Perhaps I could send the occaisional blog about lower mid table life in serie A!
        Best regards


  9. I don’t think that selecting Green can be held against Capello – all we needed for that game was basic goalkeeping competence and he had every reason to expect that he would get that. Ledley was always a bit of a risk – and the Ferdinand injury made this more difficult. We didn’t play very well but neither have Italy and France, only the Germans (of course) have. Something psychological happens with our players on these occasions and they become nervous and very conservative in their play – too predictable. The option of the long ball is too tempting as an outlet … this is not a fault of playing Heskey or Crouch but more about how the players think … i.e. rather than make a mistake I’ll go for the long ball … I still think we will do ok but we need a decent win to settle and gain confidence.


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