Germany v England. Two teams that have battled it out many times before in major tournaments came face to face in the last sixteen of the World Cup.
It turned out to be a much more one sided match than anyone had predicted as the Germans ran out very confortable winners. But it was a game with great controversy as well as some tremendous German passing football.
Fabio Capello’s side came into this clash as second favourites. Draws with the USA and Algeria followed by a narrow one goal win over Slovenia saw England qualify only as group runners up. Meanwhile Joachim Loew’s men won their group with victories over Australia and Ghana and a surprise defeat to Serbia.
There were no surprises in the team line ups.
England for once had no injury worries. Capello decided to name an unchanged side and stuck to the 4-4-2 formation that meant Stephen Gerrard played on the left of midfield. Matthew Upson retained his place in central defence despite Jamie Carragher being available again after suspension and Jermaine Defoe was rewarded for his winner against Slovenia with a starting role.
Germany were without forward Cacau through injury but Miroslav Klose, who returned from suspension, would in all likelihood have started in any case. Both midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and defender Jerome Boateng passed late fitness tests and took their places in the team.
It was a tense start, which was probably to be expected in such an important game, and both sides misplaced passes early on. German playmaker Ozil had the first chance of the match from a narrow angle in 4 minutes, but James made the save with his legs. England’s first shooting chance came on 18 minutes but Lampard’s poor free kick was easily blocked by the German defensive wall.
Germany took the lead on 20 minutes and it was a goal the English defence will not want to see again. A long goal kick straight through the middle cleared Terry leaving Upson to chase with Klose. The German striker showed great strength to shrug off the defender before calmly placing the ball in the corner of the net for his 50th international goal.
It could have got worse for England on 30 minutes when a good German move gave Klose another opportunity, but this time James rescued England with a fine save.
Just a minute later the Germans again carved the English defence open. Klose and Muller combined before the midfielder set up Podolski who fired under James from a tight angle to double the German’s lead.
Two goals down, England were reeling. The Germans were creating chances against a very fragile defence and came close to scoring a third through the irrepressible Klose.
Then the game was turned on its head. On 36 minutes the German defence were caught out with a short corner and Lampard’s cross was headed home by Upson.
And they should have been level shortly afterwards when Lampard’s shot from the edge of the box came off the underside of the bar and quite clearly crossed the line before bouncing out. Astonishingly the goal wasn’t given – was it payback for the famous decision Geoff Hurst got so many years back?
The whistle blew to a cacophony of boos from England fans, with the Germans ahead by 2 – 1. What a first half!
The second half started slowly but it burst into life on 51 minutes. A long range free kick from Lampard came back off the bar with the German keeper Neuer no more than a spectator.
Capello made a change on 64 minutes, brining Joe Cole into the game in place of Milner. It appeared to be a straight swap, with no change in formation, meaning that Cole, like Gerrard, was playing wide rather than in a central position to influence the game.
With 66 minutes played the Germans broke with devastating effect after yet another Lampard free kick was blocked. Ozil and Schweinsteiger combined to send Muller through and his powerful shot beat James, who might just think he could have done better. The two goal cushion was restored, and Capello responded to the urgent need for goals by telling Emile Heskey to warm up!
And worse was to follow just three minutes later. Another swift counter saw Ozil break free down the right wing. He kept his composure and rolled the ball across the six yard box for Muller to score his second with ease. 4 – 1 and the game was up for England.
The Germans saw the rest of the match out without too much difficulty and ran out worthy winners.
This was a comprehensive German victory. Sure, England were denied a legitimate goal bit it wouldn’t have changed the eventual outcome of the game. The calls for video replay will get louder. But that is a red herring as England were well outplayed,
The Germans dominated the midfield with both Schweinsteiger and Ozil outstanding. They played good football throughout, showing the very passing and moving that England lacked.
Capello’s men were below par as they have been throughout the tournament. The big players did not show their club form or enhance their reputations in any way. The men in red traipsed off the pitch at the final whistle looking like a well beaten team
So Capello and co make an early exit from the World Cup. Their poor performances in the group stages gave them a difficult last 16 tie and they were simply nowhere near good enough to live with an excellent young German side.
Few England players can look back on this World Cup with any pride. Only Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson would receive pass marks from me. Milner, Barry and Defoe all did well at times but were inconsistent. And many others were simply very poor.
Robert Green was given his chance but started the tournament with a howler. The central defence was much changed but all four players who started there looked fragile. And the big players did not perform: Lampard and Gerrard had good moments, but failed to impose themselves on the tournament. Wayne Rooney did not even come close to scoring in four games.
There will be criticism of Fabio Capello in the media following the early exit for some of his decisions.
His use of Gerrard exclusively on the left rather than supporting a striker where he does his best work. The baffling selection of Emile Heskey given his poor scoring record throughout his career. And the refusal to play Joe Cole, whose creativity might just have made a difference.
Will Capello still be in change when the European Championship campaign begins? If he is he will have to build a new side to take England forward. This one has failed to find form in four games and it caught up with them in the end.
For Germany a mouth-watering quarter final tie against the Argentinians beckons, assuming they take care of Mexico tonight.
But for England only a long flight home awaits.