There’s no disputing that England deserved its loss to Germany
Suddenly, it’s 1966 all over again. The Beatles are riding high in the hit parade. Twiggy and her miniskirts are all the rage. And, just to underline the unexpected temporal shift, England and Germany are playing each other in the World Cup.
As it was in London 44 years ago, so it was in Bloemfontein on Sunday afternoon.
History, it appears, does repeat itself, but always with a twist.
Back then, it was Geoff Hurst’s shot that thundered against German goalkeeper Hans Tilkowski’s crossbar, bounced down onto or over the line (take your pick) and the goal was allowed. The controversy over the call has raged ever since.
This time it was Frank Lampard’s shot for England that smacked into German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s crossbar, bounced down over the line (no question about that) and the goal was disallowed. The controversy will rage for decades.
Back then, England won the match, 4-2, after extra time. This time, Germany won the match in regulation, 4-1.
It was England’s worst-ever World Cup defeat and the umpteenth time in the last four-plus decades that it has been the Germans who have run roughshod over English hopes.
So, the Three Lions are heading home. The English tabloids are working themselves into a froth over the bad call by Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda and his assistants, and the Germans, not without a smirk or two, are going on to the quarterfinals.
They do so deservedly. They were younger, fitter, faster and smarter. They carried with them no preconceived ideas about their own worth, as the English players did, and they were better-coached.
Fabio Capello might have an impressive resume as a club coach, but he has not proved to be up to much as a national team coach. Qualifying is one thing, the World Cup itself is another. Capello’s World Cup record in South Africa? One win, one loss and two ties. Would he resign? “Absolutely not,” he said.
But Capello, who is earning a rather sizable stack of pound notes to turn England from a second- or now perhaps third-rate team on the international level into something respectable, is not solely to blame.
He can work only with players who have English passports, and the truth is they are simply not up to it. This so-called golden generation failed in 2002, failed again in 2006 and has now failed for the last time in 2010.
It is time to clean house, and the larger and more forcefully the broom is used the better.
The sad truth of the matter is that England’s players, with few exceptions, are an arrogant, ignorant and unpleasant lot. They are paid far too much by their Premier League clubs, where their true allegiance lies, and their ability individually and collectively in an England shirt does not match their swagger.
It is not too much to say that the worthless and nationalistic English tabloids are reflected in the English team. It’s all about drinking, drugs, womanizing, gambling, fast cars and slow minds. Little England written large.
Consider, for just a moment, these sophomoric headlines from the gutter press in the days leading up to Sunday afternoon’s match at the Free State Stadium:
“Germans Wurst at Penalties.”
“Herr We Go Again.”
“Job Done, Now for the Hun.”
“Das Boot Is on the Other Foot.”
It’s pathetic. True, the German tabloids are just as bad, but at least Germany has a team. Was there one player on the field for England on Sunday with Mesut Ozil’s ability? Was there any English player to match Bastian Schweinsteiger or Thomas Mueller? Was there an England defender on the field at all?
So, maybe it is not 1966 all over again. It was a different generation back then, a different mind-set and a different scale of moral values.
After the humiliation, Capello blamed the referee and Lampard’s goal that went unseen by the useless referee and his out-of-position assistants. That would have tied it at 2-2 and perhaps, just perhaps, the game might have veered off in a different direction. German Coach Joachim Low agreed that it was a legitimate goal.
But the plain fact of the matter is that Germany was better-prepared, better-motivated, better tactically, better technically and better all round.
Of course, that probably will not matter two hoots when Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and the rest of the Argentine horde come calling in the quarterfinals in Cape Town on July 3.
That’s when Germany will find out how good it really is.