So England is out, once again at the hands of Germany. What went wrong?
The first half could be broken up into two contrasting periods - the first 35 minutes and the remainder of the half.
The opening half hour or so reminded me of the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul. Germany ripped into England much as AC Milan tore through Liverpool on that famous night. Only profligacy and luck kept the German tally down to two goals. England were disjointed and ill at ease. Nothing seemed to go right for them.
Then, Upson scores with a header. Suddenly the Germans are on the back foot. Within a minute, Lampard’s looping shot from the edge of the box has clearly bounced over the line. I am out of my chair. It is 2–2 after an amazing turnaround.
The only problem was neither the ref nor the linesman knew what the players, millions watching around the world, and I could see, so they waved play on and Germany survived to see the first half out.
The case for video replay technology has never been made more eloquently.
In the second half, Germany was content to let England come at them. Lampard was desperately unlucky again when his long range free kick clattered off the bar with the keeper well beaten.
It would be England’s last meaningful chance, as first Schweinsteiger, and then Ozil, set up Muller for two devastating strikes on the break.
Gerrard went close late on, and Heskey and Cole replaced Defoe and Milner, but the contest had effectively ended once Germany chose to unleash their counter-attacking forces.
England’s defence, and the men who were supposed to be shielding them, couldn’t cope with the lightning thrusts orchestrated by Schweinsteiger, Ozil, and Klose.
It would be easy and comforting to claim the perfectly valid disallowed goal by Lampard cost England the game.
The truth is far more alarming – all too often, Germany’s movement and awareness tore a fragile defence to shreds.
A more-effective front two backed up by a confident midfield might at least have given the Germans something to think about.
Sadly, Rooney and Defoe had little to offer, and the midfield quartet of Lampard, Gerrard, Barry, and Milner lacked sufficient drive and imagination to threaten Germany’s defence.
Without meaning to take anything away from an excellent young German side, which on this evidence, could go on to win the tournament, this was a poor England performance.
English football will now doubtless enter another period of soul-searching before the qualifying campaign for the next European Championships begins. How many of this current squad will still be around for Euro 2012 remains to be seen.
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