England 1 – 1 United States: Robert Green’s calamity costs England
By Ross Mackiewicz.
England’s opening five minutes of their 2010 World Cup campaign could not have gone any better as Captain Steven Gerrard tucked home the opener following a wonderful piece of link up play with Emile Heskey. The England fans that were tipped to be outnumbered by their American counterparts blew their adversaries away as the Royal Bafokeng Stadium sounded like a home fixture for the Three Lions with the sound of the brass band and renditions of Rule Britannia accompanied by the odd vuvuzela. Thirty-five minutes later and Robert Green who was picked to be England’s number one by Fabio Capello ahead of David James and Joe Hart joined England’s hall of shame after a disastrous error gifted Clint Dempsey America’s equaliser.
Optimism was rife as usual in the build to a big England International as Fabio Capello’s side are expected to do something special in South Africa, but following this result such talk will be now put on hold as England now have to focus on winning the next two games to consolidate their qualification to the knockout rounds.
The manager surprised few as he opted to play Aston Villa’s James Milner ahead of Joe Cole despite him missing three days of training this week due to a temperature. The other talking point was the goalkeeping situation which will now be under more scrutiny from the press following Green’s error. Emile Heskey partnered Wayne Rooney upfront with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard complimenting each other in the middle of the park.
England started off the better side with neat link up play, with the wing backs Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson supporting Aaron Lennon and James Milner on the flanks threatening the America defence. They looked a settled side for large parts of the game and with Steven Gerrard’s wonderfully crafted finish in the opening five minutes it gave the supporters back home something to cheer.
The USA enjoyed their fair share of the possession but didn’t really carve out any clear cut chances as England looked comfortable.
Emile Heskey’s partnership with Wayne Rooney fully justified Capello’s decision as both players complimented each other nicely with some tidy link up play. Heskey put himself about and was clearly giving the America centre half’s Onyewu and DeMerit problems.
In truth England could have and probably should have capitalised on their one goal advantage as Aaron Lennon teased his American counterparts with a number of dangerous crosses which failed to find an England foot to prod home.
As good as England looked on the ball they also worked well on the counter attack with a lot of pace down the right hand side with Glen Johnson and Aaron Lennon in the thick of things. James Milner was taken off by his manager with just half an hour played which was presumably for his booking earlier on in the game for tripping Steve Cherundolo. A very early substitution indeed from Capello who has stressed to the media the importance of his team not losing any players to sending offs. A show of caution from the Italian. Shaun Wright-Phillips came on in his place and looked lively.
Jozy Altidore had a great chance to equalise for the Americans as the goal was gaping for him but fluffed his lines by failing to latch onto a Landon Donovan set-piece.
The USA got their equaliser with five minutes to play before the interval. A weak shot by Fulham’s Clint Dempsey from 25 yards seemed to be food and drink for Robert Green to calmly collect into his arms. However the man who has received high praise in the build up to the competition after his performance against Mexico saw the ball trickle from his grasp and subsequently rolled into the net. He had failed to get his whole body behind the ball and paid for the lapse of concentration. A horror moment for the 30 year old who will only see his mistake over and over in his head. England up to that point were fairly comfortable but the equaliser was a shock to the system. That didn’t stop Glen Johnson weaving through the American defence straight after but saw his shot well saved by Tim Howard to his left.
Ledley King came off at half-time to add to England’s woes as Jamie Carragher came on in his place. Fabio Capello confirmed after the game that the injury wasn’t serious and the Tottenham skipper should be back in contention for the next game.
England came out for the second half and pretty much dominated the remainder of the game but didn’t at all capitalise on their authority. Emile Heskey had a terrific chance to restore England’s lead after latching onto a lovely through ball from Aaron Lennon but saw his driven shot easily collected by Howard.
Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher picked up bookings almost simultaneously on the hour mark after clashes with Robbie Findley and Clint Dempsey.
England continued to pressure throughout the second half with Heskey once again playing his role brilliantly by holding up the ball to bring his colleagues into play. Glen Johnson at wing back was also seeing much of the action and saw another chance go begging after firing his shot wide after slipping away from his marker.
If Rob Green’s confidence had been shattered he certainly done himself a world of good after making a fantastic save from Jozy Altidore who ran Jamie Carragher ragged down the left before seeing his thunderous effort tipped onto the post by Green. A great save by the West Ham man who illustrated his attributes there.
Wayne Rooney was having a quiet game by his standards and struggled to make a real influence. He did see a header go over after eluding the American defence to latch onto a Steven Gerrard cross. It was too high for the United man and another chance came and went.
The pressure mounted but Capello’s men still found it hard to carve any real clear cut chances. Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney both had decent long range efforts, especially Rooney who almost scored a spectacular goal on the turn but saw his effort flash just wide.
Peter Crouch came on for the last ten minutes but failed to get into the motion of the game. The US were giving a brave account of themselves as they dug in deep and looked threatening on the counter.
Referee Carlos Simon brought the end to game as both nations shared the spoils. It is not the perfect start for England but it isn’t by any means a disaster. Despite Green’s error England played relatively well and showed a vast improvement to their play and repertoire compared to their last three warm-up matches.
It is a historic result for the United States as their players celebrated with their fans in contrast to the English contingent who looked downbeat and despondent. Their dreams of seeing captain Steven Gerrard lifting the magnificent trophy aloft come July 11th are still very much alive but the importance of the next two games against Algeria and Slovenia are critical. It would take a pretty brave man to bet against England making it out of this group with flying colours despite the 1-1 draw.
A winning start to the World Cup doesn’t always guarantee success. France four years ago drew their opening two matches and still ended up contesting in the final. England on the other hand had a disappointing tournament in 2006 despite being victorious against Paraguay in their opener.
If you looking for a good omen, England drew 0-0 with Uruguay in the opening game of the 1966 World Cup and the rest as you know, is history.
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