England side full of wet lettuces
HATE to say I told you so.
Read it and weep: Germany 4, England 1 - our worst ever World Cup fianls defeat.
And it could have been a whole lot worse still. Our boys were ripped apart and outclassed by the old enemy (or should that be the young enemy?)
A youthful, effervescent, expressive German team embarrassed our national plodders yesterday. A grim day indeed.
The experts told us England had the edge man-on-man. Our big players were supposedly better than theirs. We had no reason to fear them.
But when it mattered most, the ‘Battle of Bloemfontein’ was more one-sided than a Jeremy Paxman interview.
The Germans were the stern-faced question-master pouncing on every little mistake from an England team left squirming like a nervous Newsnight guest.
Posh director of football Barry Fry called for 11 English heroes on the back of this newspaper on Saturday. He got nine wet lettuces and a couple of just-about-acceptable performances.
And what of the manager? Fabio Capello could do no wrong after leading England through the qualifiers with style and substance.
Now he can do no right and the pre-tournament timing of his contract extension will come under fire.
Capello’s hard-line regime has fallen apart in the high-pressure environment of a World Cup. Mind-boggling selections and an unsuitable system have blighted our chances, while Rio Ferdinand’s cruel injury blow really hurt.
But can Capello really be held accountable for the feeble form of most of his squad? They have looked pale imitations of the players that shine week in, week out in the Premier League.
England have often have been accused of possessing good individuals but not a great team. They haven’t even had the first part for the past two-and-a-bit weeks.
Only for a few short Sunday minutes did we live the dream before the flags were taken down and the St George suits were sent back to the fancy dress shop.
Matthew Upson – embarrassed for the German opener and generally horrific throughout the game - finally managed to send the ball in the intended direction when halving the deficit.
Then, before you knew it, came that ‘goal’ - and even though it was disgracefully scrubbed out, we were in the groove.
Frank Lampard also crashed a free-kick against the bar while Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney looked to be finding their feet.
We all believed, but the fear of being undone on the break was always there.
And it became a reality when happening not once, but twice. The Germans grabbed two goals in little over three minutes to allow the inquest to begin.
But things got even worse for England - Emile Heskey was sent on. What a fitting way to prove that we are simply not good enough.
‘THE ball is a yard over the line, but the goal hasn’t been given.’
Okay, so it might not have the same ring to it as Kenneth Wolstenholme’s immortal words of 44 years ago when the West Germans were sent packing at Wembley on the greatest night in English football history.
But the failure of the officials to spot that Frank Lampard’s ‘equaliser’ was legitimate provided a scandalous sub-plot in our demise.
It wasn’t even a close call. Players, fans in the stadium and TV viewers around the world all knew instantly that we should have been level.
Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda and his assistant clearly haven’t popped down to Specsavers of late, but England did not crash out of the World Cup because of their poor sight.
Of course it would have been a different game had the ‘goal’ stood. The young Germans were wobbling and in need of the break like a battered boxer needs the bell.
But it would have been impossible to back England – the team that disappointed against the United States and appalled against Algeria - to finish the job.
They are on a plane home because they haven’t been good enough. From the manager to the masseur, everyone has fallen short.
OH and thanks to Ghana for ending my interest in the ET office sweepstake.
Their victory over the Yanks might have been a triumph for an entire continent, but it did little for my bank balance.