1. The Curse That Won’t Go Away
Another game, another English goalkeeping horror. Poor Rob Green. He was given the ultimate vote of confidence starting ahead of David James and Joe Hart, and he goes and….does that. Can we blame the Jubilani football? Not at all, just a silly error and lapse of concentration from Rob Green. It happens all goalkeepers eventually, it just so happens that if you’re English, it happens more often. It wasn’t a particularly great strike from Dempsey – the ball did bounce but it was well in front of Green. Given how replays showed how furious Capello was with Milner’s booking, we just can’t imagine him giving the West Ham ‘keeper a shoulder to cry on. He did make a very good save from Jozy Altidore in the second half, but such a high profile gaffe could very well spell the end of Greens international career considering the media scrutiny. We just hope he hasn’t got rid of these gloves just yet.
2. How many times do I have to tell you?
Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard cannot play together in midfield! It’s been repeated by almost everybody at this stage, so why Fabio “I make tough decisions” Capello insists on trying to make it work is beyond us. Gerrard summed up his season at Liverpool with a Jekyll and Hyde performance. His sublime finish in the 4th minute was almost overwritten by a fairly sub-par performance which saw him lose Clint Dempsey far too easily for the USA’s equalising goal. If Gerrard’s club form meant this display was not overly surprising, then Frank Lampard’s peformance is a mystery. He’s rarely less than brilliant for Chelsea, and is usually dependable for England, at least capable of grabbing a goal when it matters. But the Chelsea midfielder was anonymous tonight. It was a midfield performance that will have the nation anxious for a holding player like Gareth Barry to return, or God forbid, the forgotten squad member that is Michael Carrick.
3. Emile-ion Times Better
The lads on RTE had a go at Emile Heskey at half time, but I thought he put in one of his best displays in an England shirt, considering his role. He set up Gerrard’s goal beautifully with a slick through pass, and was always a route through which the English attack could progress. Whether his presence on the pitch influences a route one approach is another thing, but you can hardly expect him to refuse to play for the best of the team. It’s the World Cup, and the most (and least) you can expect from a player is for them to do their best, which Heskey did. Sure, he could have done better when one on one with Howard early in the second half, but the American is a top ‘keeper, and was off his line quickly to reduce Heskey’s target area. Any criticism directed towards the Villa man is surely another desperate attempt in the long line of scapegoat finding by “pundits”.
4. Fit as a Findley
Robbie Findley was very impressive for USA tonight. A player of such pace is always a huge weapon, but against the lead-footed duo of Terry and King, he was always going to be one of the Americans’ favoured outlets. Jamie Carragher was exposed for pace and quickness a few times after his introduction, picking up a booking for a cynical foul on Findley and almost being at fault for an American goal when outpaced by Altidore in the 64th minute. The USA could be a dangerous prospect for one of the more fancied teams should they progress from the group stages, and once Altidore returns to full fitness, their attack will be even more formidable.
5. Where are Roo?
Spare a thought for Wayne Rooney. England’s talisman has had to put up with comparisons with Lionel Messi all season – a battle he lost in part due to his end of season injury, but mostly down to Messi being the clear victor. After Messi’s verging-on-inspirational performance for Argentina against Nigeria this afternoon, all eyes turned to Rooney as the second act of the Messi – Rooney – Ronaldo circus took centre stage. But the Manchester United man found himself starved of chances, and when he did find himself with the ball, he was quickly surrounded and forced to bundle possession away to a team mate. He was close to producing a moment of magic in the 75th minute with an imaginative long-range effort, followed by a close range flick from a corner soon after, but Tim Howard was for the most part untroubled by Rooney tonight.
6. Don Wrong Demarco
Don Capello hasn’t gotten much wrong in his time as England manager, but his selection tonight seemed a bit off. James Milner was suffering from illness during the week, and was far from 100%. A yellow card proved to be the straw the broke the camel’s back as he was replaced by Shaun Wright Phillips at the half hour mark. It will be interesting to hear what the Italian has to say about Ledley King too. Has intensive World Cup preparation training affected his ever so brittle fitness? England’s lack of pace in central defence without Rio Ferdinand is alarming, and it hampers their tactics in more ways than the obvious one. We’re so used to seeing Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole as spiritual wingers for England, but they were forced to put more emphasis on their defensive covering tonight to assists the central pairing. As a result, England were more impotent than usual with their attacks from wide positionsas Johnson and Cole were late in offering Wright-Phillips and Lennon their support. The two early changes also meant that Capello had less cards up his sleeve as England chased the winning goal, with Peter Crouch being the only fresh legs he could introduce.
7. Got dole?
A quick word of reassurance for the technical director at ITV who allowed their HD broadcast to cut to a Hyundai advert just before Heskey played Steven Gerrard through in the biggest football match England has seen for four years, in front of an audience of millions. Don’t worry mate, this recession won’t last forever. I’m sure you’ll find a new job eventually.