Darren Bent’s exclusion meant we weren’t really supposed to be too bothered. But an early goal does wonders for everyone’s moral. Doesn’t it? Well, not if followed by 40 minutes of abysmal football and a comic cuts equaliser. Did it get better in the second half? Not a great deal. Best out of that lot, Darren! …
This is an updated version of the halftime posting …
It would not be quite right to say the French commentator could actually be heard salivating when Robert Green, for months linked with a move to a club with an infinitely better keeper (Sunderland), made his pathetic fumble to allow Clint Dempsey’s ordinary, somewhat hopeful long-range strike to spin away from him and over the line.
All the same, the man from TF1 did sound a little excited (though Arsène Wenger, by his side, was altogether more level-headed).
Well, fair play to the French. After a dismal warm-up, and an opening game they dominated without ever really looking like winning, they needed something to cheer them up. The USA’s equaliser served that purpose.
Allowing that the French were strictly speaking neutral, there hadn’t been much else for the uncommitted to enjoy in the first half, save for England’s neat goal and a spirited response from the Americans, modest though their collective talents appear to be. But then modest talent was the order of the night.
No one will feel worse about Robert Green’s blunder than Robert Green. But BBC Sport’s chief football writer, Phil McNulty, can hardly be faulted for this damning verdict:
Forget the new World Cup footballs – that was simply an horrendous piece of goalkeeping. England’s lack of a top-class, undisputed keeper was one of the big pre-World Cup fears and we have just seen why. The United States’ supporters were almost as late in reacting as Green. It was that bad.
What else would you mention if ringing home to relatives without television about the first half? Milner’s crude challenges, eventually punished with a yellow? Misplaced passes that reminded me of the depths of our mid-season winless run? Rooney’s anonymity?
And so to the second half. England started with a little more purpose. Heskey had a glorious chance that Darren would have buried; he didn’t. Green made a desperate save, pushing a shot on to the post after Carragher had been left for dead. Crouch aimed a lame weak header in the general direction of the corner flag. Lampard sent a crossfield pass behind Johnson and out of play. Rooney ran a lot but his first touch was sometimes poor. Half chances went begging.
For the French, the American resistance was a joy in itself. A cry of magique greeted one crucial block in the USA penalty area; bien joué, with Arsène in total accord, the commentator exclaimed later as America held out.
The USA fully merited the draw. England simply cannot complain and can hope only that recent history repeats itself: didn’t Italy draw 1-1 with the USA before going on the win the 2006 World Cup?
But poor Mr Green should prepare for his life to be made, temporarily, a misery …
* Thanks to Shine 2010 for the image