Three quick thoughts on England-Germany
Three quick thoughts on Germany's 4-1 win over England in the second round.
1. So much for a laid-back England being an effective England -- A lot was made in the British press the last couple of days about how loose England has looked of late. First it was revealed by John Terry that coach Fabio Capello -- who reportedly doesn't like to let his players have sauce on their carb-heavy pasta -- invited the lads to have a beer before the Slovenia game. (To quote Homer Simpson: To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems!) Then today's News of the World ran a picture of Jamie Carragher goosing Terry in practice under the headline Grin When You're Winning. It was perhaps na´ve to think that a pint of lager and the sight one of the squad's most veteran players playfully grabbing the bum of its disgraced captain would be enough to cure all of England's woes; that much was clear after the first 35 minutes of the game, during which absolutely abysmal defending led to two Germany goals and a handful of other chances. It took the second German goal to shock England back to life -- and that reprive only lasted about 30 minutes.
2. Turnabout isn't fair play -- One of the most famous goals in England history was scored 44 years ago by Geoff Hurst, whose extra-time shot off the underside of the crossbar in the 1966 World Cup final against Germany may or may not have deflected over the goal line. The officials allowed the goal, giving England a 3-2 lead in a game they'd eventually win 4-2. Frank Lampard's first-half chip of Manuel Neuer was eerily similar, but -- thanks to instant replay-- there was no doubt that Lampard's shot cleared the line. Of course, FIFA doesn't use replay -- a silly policy that might now be on its way out. There's a fine line between embracing the traditional human element and being a group of Luddites, and FIFA is getting awfully close to crossing it. No one wants to see games stopped every five minutes so the ref can consult the videotape to see if a cross hit someone's chest or their arm. But the benefits of using replay for questions of whether or not a shot has crossed the line far outweigh the occasional replay stop. (That's the only time replay should be used in a game, but I wouldn't have a problem with it being used to punish divers after the fact; that's an issue for another day.) Just a hunch: the English tabs might latch on to this controversy, because as good as Germany looked, if Lampard's goal stands, who knows how the game plays out?
3. England needs to figure out what to do with Wayne Rooney -- It was more of the same for Rooney against Germany: His teammates couldn't get him the ball where he could do anything with it, so he spent too much time tracking back, trying to force his way into the action. There have been calls to play him alone up top in a 4-5-1. That may or may not be the answer. And England's midfield mess isn't helping. When stationed out left, Steven Gerrard has a tendency to drift toward his more natural central position, and as a result it seems as if England too often gets cramped. England was better in the second half (at least until Germany put the game out of reach). Its spacing was improved, and when Rooney came back, it was with a purpose. (On several occasions he turned distributor and put a teammate through.) But if England is going to threaten in Euro 2012 or in Brazil in four years, it needs to come up with a way to get Rooney on the scoresheet.