Wednesday, 23 June 2010
World Cup, Day 13
No particular individual was inspired. Laborious short-passing detracted from what was otherwise a determined attacking performance and a comfortable-enough 1-0 win. For the first time since Gerrard's opener against USA, we can earmark ball-playing achievements. Despite his wastefulness in possession, James Milner's crossing impressed every skeptic. And where Heskey had failed to unwrap Lennon's gifts, Defoe's wily, decisive forward-play requited Milner's fine delivery. Even if Defoe doesn't score again at this World Cup, his selection over Heskey or Crouch should stub out the familiar long-ball approach; surely a good thing. There were also welcome glimpses of the captain's long-range passing prowess which might become a critical asset when England need to switch play authoritatively.
Against a more potent winger, Glen Johnson might have seen red, consistently guilty of ill-disciplined and technically wanton tackling. James was commanding again, though the very composure and confidence about his presence is a contant reminder of the painful truth - that Green's (or rather Capello's) error has brought about this game with Germany, England having not defeated a World Cup winner at the World Cup, other than Argentina in a group game, since '66.
Time-travel even farther, and today's push-and-run stuff would have made even Arthur Rowe proud - perhaps an indication of how little our grass-roots education in touch and movement has evolved. England showed too much pace and power for Slovenia but challenges demanding patience and subtlety await. I wish I trusted guts and bullishness as a passage towards glory: I just don't see wrestlers like Melo & Gilberto, Busquets or Mascherano budging. Nor do I prophesy danger-men like Ozil, Robben, (insert any Spaniard), Messi or Ronaldo stalling, and by doing so, allowing England to dictate the pace of a match.
It is probable that Joe Cole will feature when, on Sunday, this hereditarily blunt England so dependant on tempo meet a flexible as well as compact Germany. If the comparably eloquent Mehmet Ozil were English, one can't help but think he too would be stuck on Capello's bench or at left midfield, apprised to track back at all times. No longer laughed off as a cause of 'the footballing left' (Xavi-infatuated purists), the argument for invention behind Wayne Rooney is difficult to defeat. Except for the brainwashing-victims of Kasbian-soundtracked, HD slo-mos of Lampard (Sky's alter-logo), most fans are aware of how one-paced the (Chelsea) talisman is.
At dawn the World Cup will begin its fourteenth day. An improving Rooney still hasn't found the net; Frank Lampard becomes more and more pointless; Milner and Lennon seem an awesome tag-team; the defence, efficient. Above all, Joe Cole's imminent importance must not be deflected by a 1-0 victory over ordinary opposition.