Colin Randall watches another England dream fade …
At half time, we hoped the sense of injustice felt would impel England to victory after a calamitous error by match officials prevented a stirring fightback from 0-2 to 2-2. A bit like 1908 when, as every schoolboy should know, Sunderland were so enraged by an appalling penalty decision, which allowed Newcastle to go in 1-1 instead of 1-0 down, that we went on the score eight more in the second half.
But that was St James’ Park and this was the Royal Free Stadium in Bloemfontein. And suddenly a German breakaway after a poor England free kick into the wall led to a third goal.
Three-one somehow seemed a lot worse than 2-0 had been earlier, and was already enough to have the French commentator (I was watching in the Var) talking about the England dream being over. And even that seemed nowhere near as bad as 4-1 very soon afterwards.
The pace and purpose of the Germans was mightily impressive. And the hopelessness of England’s defending was an embarrassment. It was as if we were the plucky part-timers up against Premier League elite.
Who knows how different it might have been had we been able to complete that first-half recovery from a shambolic start and get back to 2-2? Our defending was so powerless in the face of the fast, direct Germans that we would have remained at risk until the final whistle.
Upson had partly redeemed himself for his part in the opening goal by rising well to guide Gerrard’s inviting cross into the net as Neuer came charging out in a passing impression of Lionel Perez in the playoff final.
Two-one and we had hope. Then Lampard’s shot came down from the underside of the bar deep into the goal but not quite deep enough for the bumbling officials.
But did we, in the end, deserve much better?
On 20 mintues Upson had joined John Terry in permitting Klose to run effortlessly onto a long punt by the Neuer and slot the ball past James. Had Klose gone down under Upson’s blatant attempt to foul him from behind, it would still – in all likelihood – have been 1-0, and also 10 versus 11.
When Germany scored for a second time, we looked well beaten. They could have added more. It was, then, a spiritied fightback and one that should have given us the right to see what we could do at 2-2.
But German power told, and no one can honestly say they didn’t deserve their win, even if the Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda and his visually challenged linesman will not be able to forget their clanger in a hurry.