[GERMANY-ENGLAND] A shot off the underside of the crossbar revived memories of 1966, when England beat West Germany, 4-2, in the World Cup final at Wembley. But this time, England lost a goal that should have counted, and the Germans rolled to a 4-1 win that sends them into the quarterfinals.
What we liked ...
-- Indifferent, sometimes desultory club form means nothing when Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose get into the World Cup. They netted the first two goals in clinical fashion to give Germany a 2-0 lead.
Klose ran down a bouncing goal kick and muscled past Matt Upson to slide the ball past keeper David James in the 20th minute, and 12 minutes later Podolski controlled a ball on the left side that he fired through James’ feet and just inside the far post. Klose’s goal tied him with Pele for fourth on the all-time list with 12 World Cup goals; after netting three times in 2006, Podolski scored his second goal of this competition.
-- Podolski, then 21, won honors in 2006 as Young Player of the Tournament. His current teammate, Thomas Mueller, is one of the front runners for that award this time around. He set up Podolski’s goal with a run down the right wing and chip to the opposite side, then scored twice within three minutes midway through the second half to effectively end the match.
Mueller doesn’t turn 21 until September and with three goals is tied for the tournament lead in that category. How fast has Mueller come along? He debuted for Germany three and a half months ago in a friendly against Argentina.
-- German mids Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Oezil kept the ball moving and chose their moments wisely to pick apart England, which grew panicky in the second half and paid the price by surrendering Mueller's two goals in rapid succession on assists from the two playmakers.
What we didn’t like ...
-- Debate has raged since 1966 about Geoff Hurst’s controversial goal in the World Cup final that hit the underside of the bar and was ruled to have crossed the goal line. It gave England a 3-2 lead in overtime of what would eventually be a 4-2 triumph over West Germany. The available video and photographic evidence has been scrutinized ever since and has yet to resolve the issue.
Nothing is in doubt about Frank Lampard’s apparent equalizer late in the first half; replays weren’t needed to discern it had dropped from the bar as much as two feet over the goal line before rebounding back up to the bar, and then claimed by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Yet somehow referee Jorge Larrionda and the referee's assistant missed it.
Instead of a stirring comeback from a two-goal deficit to tie the match, England had only Jermaine Defoe’s header to take into the locker room down, 2-1. Hopefully, FIFA president Sepp Blatter will provide some new bromides to justify his insanely stubborn resistance to changes that could rectify goal-line gaffes. The old excuses are getting really old.
England hit the bar again in the second half when a Lampard free kick from more than 30 yards came back off the woodwork, and he appealed in vain for a handball as Germany raced upfield with the rebound of his free kick off the wall to score its third goal.
-- Prior to the tournament, the scintillating attacks of Wayne Rooney were cited as one reason England might overcome its deficiencies in other areas, but the Rooney in South Africa shamed the version that has dazzled for much of the past decade for Everton and Manchester United.
Coach Fabio Capello assured journalists and fans prior to facing Germany that Rooney’s ankle problem that caused him to be substituted in the match against Slovenia wouldn’t be a factor, yet Rooney’s ponderous runs and tentative touches didn’t much influence the game. Rooney had apologized after criticizing England’s fans, a good number of which had booed their players off the field as the final seconds ticked down on a grim 0-0 tie with Algeria. Those who booed again Saturday had every right to.
-- Coaches in every country could sympathize with Capello. Injuries deprived him of starting defender Rio Ferdinand shortly before the tournament and replacement Ledley King at halftime of the first match. He picked among a very lackluster list of goalkeeping candidates and never found a consistent, reliable midfield mix.
Some sympathy and condolences are due for the disallowed Lampard goal, yet over four matches, England seldom looked anything close to those teams given the best chance to win this World Cup. The English FA has changed from Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson to Englishman Steve McClaren to Capello, a former Italian international who had experience and success at club level with several Italian teams and Real Madrid and carried England smoothly through qualifying.
Is this disappointment due to Capello's shortcomings, those of his players or a measure of both?