Okay, so England hasn’t lost the World Cup yet, but Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the US certainly felt like a defeat. It all started brightly, with Steven Gerrard scoring an early goal after some nice work by Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey, not that UK viewers got to see it live. But Robert Green’s blunder on Clint Dempsey’s daisy-cutter from outside the box in the dying minutes of the first half handed momentum and confidence to the Americans, and realized one of the worst fears of England supporters: the unsteady situation in goal.
The decision on who would get the start apparently came down to the final hours before kickoff. With David James’ fitness still in doubt and Fabio Capello said to have been unimpressed with Joe Hart’s distribution in this week’s friendly against Platinum Stars, it was West Ham’s Green who finally got the call even though, as this BBC article reveals, Opta statistics claims Green made more errors leading to goals than any other player in the Premier League last season. You can debate whether experience should count over form, particularly in a big tournament like the World Cup, and whether Hart would have been affected by butterflies in his World Cup debut. Now, however, the big question is whether Green will start again in this tournament. His teammates are behind him, even if the manager remains noncommittal. Stevie G suggested the ball may have been to blame, but I’m not so sure.
A poor 30 minute cameo by James Milner, the injury suffered by the talented but fragile Ledley King, and the way Jamie Carragher was exposed by Jozy Altidore in the second half (even with Green earning some measure of redemption by turing the American’s shot onto the post) all set off alarm bells. Yes, England had some chances after the break, with Heskey and Shaun Wright-Phillips wasting opportunities to beat the impressive Tim Howard. But even though it’s not exactly doom-and-gloom time just yet, it sure feels depressing.