Teamwork – that was the difference between England and Germany on Sunday evening. The English relied on flashes of brilliance from their lavishly paid collection of stars, while Germany played as a unit, worked together and worked for each other. In the end, the 4 -1 routing of the English was a justified result.
But firstly – Lampard’s disallowed goal. It was a ridiculous decision, one which cast a rather ugly pall on what was a great football match. Lampard’s shot hit the upright, bounced a foot or two in the German goal, hit the upright again and bounced out. It was a brilliant goal, but apparently because the assistant referee didn’t see it, it was disallowed. How much lower should football sink before Fifa decide to introduce video technology into the officiating?
According to Sepp Blatter’s statement on the issue of introducing technology to football, “Fifa’s goal is to improve the quality of refereeing, making referees more professional and better prepared, and to assist referees as much as possible. This is also the reason why refereeing experiments (such as with additional referees or the role of the fourth official) will continue to be analysed, to see how referees can be supported.” Well, the level of professionalism we’ve seen in this World Cup is, quite frankly, appalling. The decider between which team stays on in the tournament and which team takes an early flight home should not be the referee or his assistants.
Photo: Germany’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer watches as the ball crosses the line during the 2010 World Cup second round soccer match against England at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein June 27, 2010. England were denied an equalising goal on Sunday when a Frank Lampard shot from 2O metres out hit the crossbar and dropped well over the line. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
But the difference between the two sides was much more than that mistake. For one thing, Joachim Loew organised his team more intelligently. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira played a holding role deep within the German midfield, allowing Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose to wreak devastation on the England defence. The Germans 4-2-3-1 formation allowed them to control the midfield and to play a flowing game that let players to deploy themselves to any point on the field where they’d be most effective at any given moment. You simply had no idea where the front three Germans might turn up. Capello’s choice of the old-fashioned and static 4-4-2 formation kept the midfielders rigidly fixed to their positions, and there was a gap between the midfielders and the strikers.
There was also a gap between the England midfield players and the defenders. Klose often had the beating of John Terry and Matthew Upson, not only because he’s a tough player, but because the two centre backs were often left alone to defend. Not so with the Germans. The two holding midfielders always backtracked in defense to support their two central defenders.
Germany were also devastatingly brilliant in their counter-attacks. They flicked the ball from player to player very swiftly, and weren’t afraid to pass the ball right across the field if necessary. They never needed any more than three players to punish the England side.
Ozil was a major ace in the German squad. Not only does he have a delicate touch, he’s a very intelligent player who seems to be telepathically linked to the rest of his teammates, wherever he is on the field. He always seems to make the most effective choices when passing. Khedira and Schweinsteiger were also a revelation, as was Mueller, who scored a brace and the two Poles Lukas Podolski and Klose. Germany may not want to admit this, but the exclusion of Michael Ballack may have been quite a blessing. Not only is there a sense of playing for each other in the team, but it allows Ozil so much more freedom – something he may not have had, had the imposing German captain been in the team.
For England, this will be a very sorry trip home. Their side have simply not had a good showing, for all their individual talent and brilliance. What they might want to consider first is getting a coach who will allow his side to play a more flexible formation. They also need a coach who will not be intimidated by the English – we think Capello’s decision to continue play both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in the same team is more about appeasing the supporters back home than a tactical move that would give England an edge. (Both Lampard and Gerrard do exactly the same thing in the side, and a clash of personalities is inevitable.)
Germany face either Argentina or Mexico in the quarter finals, and we wonder whether Diego Maradona’s men (we’re making an intelligent, if rather dangerous, guess about the outcome of the last 16 encounter between Argentina and Mexico here) will be smarter and tougher than the Germans. It will be a delicious game, whatever happens.
Here are this reporter’s notes:
Germany: Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Arne Friedrich, Per Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng, Thomas Mueller, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Ozil, Miroslav Klose.
England: David James; Glen Johnson, Matthew Upson, John Terry, Ashley Cole, James Milner, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Jermain Defoe, Wayne Rooney.
Referee: Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay).
Man of the match
Only one change made to either side. Miroslav Klose starts in place of the injured Cacau. Or regains his rightful place in the line-up, I should say.
Thomas Mueller goes down after a challenge from Ashley Cole, and gets roundly booed by the mostly British crowd.
England’s two central defenders have their hands full, and then some, with Klose.
Photo: Germany’s Lukas Podolski scores a goal past England’s goalkeeper David James during the 2010 World Cup second round soccer match at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein June 27, 2010. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender
That was easily the worst officiating decision we’ve seen in this World Cup, and there have been several dreadful ones. The ball must have been half a metre into the goal.
Watch: Jeff Hurst’s infamous goal from 1966
End of the first half.
It’s Germany who have their backs to the wall in this half.
England caught pushing too many men forward once may be poor, but twice is criminal.
End of the match. England are broken.
By Sipho Hlongwane
Photo: Germany’s Thomas Mueller celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal against England during a 2010 World Cup second round soccer match at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein June 27, 2010. REUTERS/Darren Staples
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