Just about all but Ger­rard & Co have been hav­ing a kick-about

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL - MATT LAWTON

THE Ger­mans, it would seem, have out­ma­noeu­vred Eng­land again.

As have the Span­ish, the Dutch, the French, the Swiss, the Ja­panese, the Por­tuguese and those clever chaps from Ar­gentina. Even the Amer­i­cans ap­pear to have dis­played a bit more com­mon sense.

And why? Be­cause, un­like the English, they have all been play­ing with this con­tro­ver­sial new Jab­u­lani ball for months.

Ac­cord­ing to the vast ma­jor­ity of play­ers and coaches at this World Cup, the Jab­u­lani is the bane of the tour­na­ment, not the vu­vuzela.

“It is ter­ri­ble,” de­clared Fabio Capello last week and he has been far from alone in com­plain­ing.

Joe Cole said it has taken “some of the skill out of the game” and no­body, not even Lionel Messi, has yet suc­ceeded in mak­ing it dip over a de­fen­sive wall.

When Frank Lam­pard had a crack against the USA a week ago, that par­tic­u­lar Jab­u­lani landed in lane seven of the run­ning track sur­round­ing the pitch.

It’s a night­mare for goal­keep­ers, too. Gian­luigi Buf­fon, Italy’s No 1 and ar­guably the finest keeper in the world, has had a ma­jor moan and Cole said Eng­land’s three keep­ers were “pet­ri­fied of it”. As we soon dis­cov­ered.

Last Sun­day, Jamie Car­ragher joined Eng­land col­leagues and mem­bers of the coach­ing staff in watch­ing the Ger­mans de­stroy Aus­tralia with the per­for­mance of the com­pe­ti­tion so far.

They im­me­di­ately noted how com­fort­able they were with the ball and the next day Car­ragher was asked whether Ger­many had come to South Africa with an un­fair ad­van­tage.

The Liver­pool de­fender paused for a moment. “I can see the head­lines,” he said with a smile. “It gives them an ad­van­tage any­way. That is ob­vi­ous. We were sit­ting there last night and that is ex­actly what we were say­ing.

“The ball is very dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery train­ing ses­sion we do, we al­ways start by pass­ing 30 or 40 yards to each other just for that rea­son alone. I am sure it has helped them (Ger­many). It is an ad­van­tage, of course.

“I”ve watched all the games. And when you are cre­at­ing a ball for the World Cup the idea is to cre­ate more goals, I think. This one does strange things to make it a more ex­cit­ing tour­na­ment. But ev­ery cross I have seen has been over-hit. It goes over the back post.

“It helps if you are train­ing with it but it is a lit­tle bit in­con­sis­tent. Some­times you don’t re­ally know what it is go­ing to do when you are knock­ing balls to each other.

“Some­times it goes straight on, other times it just de­vi­ates at the last minute. But that is the same for ev­ery team, prob­a­bly ex­cept Ger­many.

“I haven’t seen any­one get a free­kick over the wall yet. It just seems to sail straight over the bar. Look­ing at the start, maybe it is not do­ing what peo­ple ex­pected. Peo­ple thought there would be more goals but, apart from Ger­many, I don’t think there have been too many goals in the tour­na­ment.

“They played so well. Very im­pres­sive. I am not look­ing for an ex­cuse. I also don’t want to hype them up too much be­cause of how well they played. Maybe it is some­thing to cling to, that they played that well be­cause they’ve been play­ing with the ball.”

BUT­TERFIN­GERS: Eng­land’s Robert Green spills a seem­ingly in­nocu­ous shot to give the USA the equaliser.

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