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