Luke Harvey considers an opening weekend in Group C that left Robert Green and Faouzi Chaouchi thankful for each other’s existence, and England drawing consolation from today’s Algeria v Sloveia game producing a result, leaving us joint mid-table instead of joint bottom …
Group C is far from the Group of Death, Group of Goalkeeping Howlers perhaps.
First Rob Green, England’s apparent number one, managed to turn Clint Dempsey’s innocuous looking long range effort into his own net. The gaffe sent the media into a frenzied overdrive as tabloids searched for the wittiest headline to describe the incident.
But hopefully they didn’t use them all up, because Group C was home to yet another calamitous display of goalkeeping. Faouzi Chaouchi, Algeria’s goalkeeper, didn’t have a great deal of work to do in their rather dull looking 1-0 defeat to Slovenia, and when he was called into action he didn’t really inspire confidence. Robert Koren tried his hand at a long range effort, and he’ll have been as surprised as anyone when his rather tame effort slipped into the far corner.
Chaouchi appeared to attempt to stop the ball by using any part of body except his hands; bizarrely seeming to almost chest the ball into his own net. Perhaps Algeria should instead consider Abdelkader Ghezzal as their future goalkeeper – he appears to have some handy ball handling skills judging by the way he controlled the ball – so good he was sent off for it. Maradona will be proud.
The match itself was far from a spectacle. Or at least of the good variety. Slovenia and Algeria’s apparent lack of ability to do anything constructive with the ball bodes well for ourselves and the USA.
One might suspect that the upcoming match between Algeria and ourselves may just descend into pot shots from random areas of the field in a hope of recreating the opposing teams goalkeeping gaffes. Which would save us from actually having to fashion any real chances using our players’ abilities.
The commentators of the action – or lack of it – were quick to repeatedly berate the Slovenian and Algerian teams as they took part in the rather uninspiring match, as if our national teams own rather sluggish performance just the day before had never happened.
Through balls were over hit, crosses would briefly leave orbit, no one would run at the defenders to get a ball into the box and there was an absence of attackers running into space behind the defence.
All things that could be attributed to England in their match against USA too.
When Emile Heskey and Steven Gerrard combined well after four minutes to put ourselves in the lead, I genuinely thought we had turned a corner, figuratively speaking. It’s rare to see our national team combine with one-two defence-splitting passes and aggressive runs from attacking players.
Turns out it still is quite rare though.
The sideways passing quickly returned, and there were many times the United States would out muscle us in the centre of the park and then pass the ball around fluently while we chased it like pets.
Wingers wouldn’t beat their man to get to the byline, in simple terms we needed more of Aaron Lennon getting past his man and then putting a ball into the six yard box for someone to bundle home.
At the other end of the pitch, Ledley King was forgettable having stepped into Rio Ferdinand’s spot, and Jamie Carragher was sluggish as his half-time replacement. And what can we say about Green that hasn’t been said many times already? His mistake will stay with many of us for the duration of the tournament, the sight of the ball spinning off his hands and his desperate – and ultimately in vain – effort to claw the ball away all seemed to happen in slow motion. You imagine he would have been content to remain face down on the ground for the rest of the match – but to his credit he made a good stop later on against American talisman Landon Donovan, pushing the shot onto the post.
In many respects, his gaffe has cemented his place as the starter for the next match too. Dropping Green now could effectively wreck his career – both domestic and internationally, depending on his mental fragility. The reporting of the incident may well have been about as inspirational as a Phil Brown team-talk but the media’s job is to report on the happenings of a match, and the monumental mishap of a goalkeeper’s inability to stop what was essentially a pass, is quite a big happening.
I’m sure the reasonable explanation of the incident is this new ball with its ground breakingly new aerodynamics that other spherical balls haven’t had. Or the bee-like drone of the vuvuzela that has been more of a talking point this World Cup than any player or match has been. It couldn’t be that the goalkeeper just made a complete howler of the situation.
Feel free to give your own excuses for the incident. I’m going to blame the oil leak, personally.