Africa, Sport

England disappoints as US earns a tough draw in Rustenburg

Although they had a dream first five minutes of the World Cup, English players could not find enough staying power to defeat the strong, physical team that the US was tonight. In a match that ended 1-1, some of the manager Capello’s choices are still difficult to understand.

The biggest problem we had with England team’s composition was the inclusion of West Ham’s keeper Robert Green, and leaving out David James, one of the world’s best shot-stoppers. Capello’s choice prove to be deadly for his team tonight, as Green fumbled Dempsey’s meek shot and literally nursed the ball into the net behind him.

Photo: England’s David Beckham (C) and coach Fabio Capello (R) react during their 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match against the US at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

England started brightly, with the new captain Gerrard neatly slotting the brilliant pass from Heskey in the fourth minute. For at least 30 minutes England dominated the game, with their lines functioning and players having plenty of fun. But Green’s mistake appeared to take the wind out of their sails, installing the hard-working US team as an equal partner in the game. In the second half, the US’s Altidore almost claimed the victory for his team, with Green redeeming himself with a smart save that saw the ball being re-directed into the post.

With Algeria and Slovenia as the remaining teams in Group C, both US and England will have been happy they didn’t lose tonight and are both likely to go into the next round. It is conceivable that the result is the best the both should expect from their clash. We shall see if Algeria and Slovenia agree with this logic.

Here are this reporter’s notes:

Starting line-ups

England: Robert Green, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Aaron Lennon, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, James Milner, Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey

USA: Tim Howard, Steven Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Robbie Findley, Josmer Volmy Altidore, Clint Dempsey

Man of the match

Tim Howard (US)

First half

  • 4th minute: England’s new captain, Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard scores! A Simple move saw Rooney knocking the ball to Heskey, who brilliantly finds unmarked Gerrard, whose touch was simple and lethal. The US goalkeeper Tim Howard could do nothing to protect his net.

Photo: England’s Steven Gerrard (4) scores past Ricardo Clark of the US (13) during a 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

England’s goal is just the best that could happen to the game, as there will be no space for any defensive tactics or time delays by either side. It does look a very promising, open game.

  • 10th minute: Lampard’s free kick creates havoc in the US penalty box, rather unusually for them. Howard is angry.
  • 11th minute: Clint Dempsey’s header is stopped by Green. The US is trying to claw its way back into the game, but will have to calm down their jittery defence first.
  • 14th minute: Three consecutive corners for the US. The third one severely exposed England’s weakness on their left mid-field defensive positions, but didn’t bring any benefits to the US team.
  • 16th minute: Gerrard’s tackle is as sharp as a razor, yet disciplined and legal. Should be taught in every soccer school.
  • 19th minute: Altidore misses a sitter from Donovan’s perfect cross.
  • 20th minute: Lennon’s cross, after Rooney’s brilliant pass, gets intercepted at the very last moment by Cherundolo, who saves a certain goal, as Heskey was waiting to simply tap the ball in. US was very lucky this time.

Even as England leads, Fabio Capello is exceptionally animated; he obviously is rather wary of his opponents tonight, especially Donovan’s ability to split England’s defence.

  • 26th minute: James Milner gets a yellow card for his second rough tackle. The resulting free kick sees Altidore head the ball harmlessly past the English goal. Capello’s very worried by the fact that Altidore is out-jumping Terry and King.

Photo: Goalkeeper Tim Howard of the US and England’s Emile Heskey (R) collide during a 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

  • 29th minute: US goalkeeper Howard is injured after colliding with Emile Heskey, who is the last English player you’d want to bump into. Like a brick wall. Howard, luckily, recovers, but only just. He is obviously still in pain.
  • 31st minute: Shaun Wright-Phillips of Manchester City replaces James Milner, who is struggling with Donovan and could earn a red card should he continue. Wright-Phillips is a mischievous, imaginative player and he could create plenty trouble for the US.

It looks like Gerrard and Lampard have finally managed to successfully organise themselves and play together coherently. For years, their failure to do so was one of the biggest reasons for England’s team being a smaller success than the sum of the talents involved.

  • 39th minute: Donovan’s shot flies past Greens upright. Was too far to start with, but he certainly doesn’t mind trying.
  • 40th minute: Dempsey scores for the US! Green makes the biggest mistake of his life (as this reporter suspected he would) and Dempsey’s shot, that barely makes it to the goal line, is more or less pushed into the goal by Green. Shocking!
  • 41st minute: Johnson shoots, very well, Howard stops it equally well.
  • 42nd minute: England is slightly rattled. You don’t want to be Green at this moment.

Capello should have known better than to choose Green. David James is one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

Second half

Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher replaces Ledley King. Capello will soon run out of replacement options.

  • 47th minute: Demerit gets a yellow card for handling the ball. Soft.
  • 48th minute: Lennon’s sortie on the right hand side brings US defence to the edge of desperation, but his colleagues could do nothing with his low cross.

England has started the second half with new energy, which points out to Capello probably having chewing their ears in the locker room during the half-time break.

  • 52nd minute: Heskey is alone in front of Howard, who manages to hold onto his powerful, but not very troubling shot. Basically, Heskey shot straight into Howard’s midriff.

Capello is genuinely nervous about the way the game is going. England players are not

  • 59th minute: Carragher gets his first yellow card, soon to be followed by his captain Gerrard.
  • 62nd minute: Donovan’s free-kick cum cross brings England’s Green into a panic. He has not been in a good mental space ever since he conceded that ridiculous goal in the first half.
  • 64th minute: Howard saves a strong shot by Lampard.

Photo: England’s goalkeeper Robert Green (L) dives as a shot from Jozy Altidore (C) of the US hits off the upright during the 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

  • 65th minute: Altidore hits the post after a brilliant one-man run; this time Green saved England, redirecting the shot from inside the goal into the post.

The temperature in Rustenburg goes up now. Both teams pulsate in their wish to win and the ball and the players are running like mad between the penalty boxes. A delight to watch, even as the technique is often sacrificed to speed. This game could have easily been played in the English Premier League.

  • 68th minute: Lampard’s free kick from 27 metres flies above the crossbar. Way above the crossbar.

England badly wants to win tonight, so does the US. Royal Bafokeng Stadium is echoing to the verses of God Save the Queen. But the fact is that the English back four are often left exposed by the attacking English midfielders in the second half, leaving them exposed to Donovan, Altidore and Findley.

  • 75th minute: Wright-Phillips has a great chance, but shoots straight into Howard, who makes another good stop after the resulting corner hands an opportunity to Rooney.

Photo: England’s Wayne Rooney (L) falls next to Michael Bradley of the US during the 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

  • 77th minute: Heskey almost heads the ball into the goal. The US defence will need some rejuvenation soon, as way too many English players are now charging through their lines. England has spent a few minutes camping in their penalty box.
  • 79th minute: Tottenham’s Peter Crouch, England’s tallest player, replaces Heskey. Expect many very, very high crosses into the US’s 16-metre space.
  • 84th minute: England’s counter-attack fizzles out, with Lampard wasting the wonderful opportunity of having four English players against two US defenders. Boggles one’s mind that such professional could judge a simple situation so badly.
  • 90th minute: Four minutes of added time

The US team looks slightly more ambitious as the game is nearing the end. Yet, it does appear that both team’s priority now is not to lose.

  • 94th minute: The end. Both teams shake hands and end the match as friends.

Report by Branko Brkic

Main photo: England’s goalkeeper Robert Green reacts after he conceded a goal against the US during a 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Darren Staples


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