“End of the World”

No doubt we’ll be getting a few headlines of that sort from the British tabloids tomorrow. Yet as England exited to the strains of ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ by Echo and the Bunnymen, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of inevitability about it all.

Really, we should have seen it all coming. The Mexico friendly should have been a wake-up call – the friendly we somehow managed to win despite being dominated by a clearly superior side throughout. Many thought the result sent us off to the World Cup in fine form, but had Mexico not been quite so profligate in front of goal and England not enjoyed such a huge slice of luck, we could have been dealt a hefty and morale-sapping defeat.

Not that there was ever much evidence of a team apparently full of confidence. At no point during the group matches – even during the apparently inspiring victory against Slovenia, the smallest nation in the tournament – did England look like a side capable of competing with the world’s best, and so it proved today. We were taken apart by a clinical, efficient German side said by some to be a work-in-progress. Its forward line arrived at the World Cup in poor form, with both Klose and Podolski having had disappointing seasons in the Bundesliga. Yet Joachim Loew’s decision to trust in the pair’s international experience has been richly rewarded, particularly so today, as the German frontline pulled England’s shambolic defence apart time and again.

The nature of the defeat will hopefully mean that the press are unable to gloss over another lacklustre performance by claiming that Frank Lampard’s goal-that-never-was would have made a difference. In truth, it could well have; England would not have had to chase the game so vigorously, and would have had a powerful momentum swing in their favour at 2-2. It’s churlish to say that a 4-1 scoreline renders the decision moot, even if in all likelihood, Germany would have won the game comfortably anyway. The fact of the matter is that many people will be discussing another shocking piece of officiating at the sport’s biggest tournament, to say nothing of Argentina’s clearly offside first goal in this evening’s match against Mexico.

FIFA stated that video evidence would not be introduced for South Africa 2010. As stubborn and pig-headed as Sepp Blatter and his team may be, it’s hard to see how much longer these kind of controversies can go ignored. If in four years time we finally see the introduction of some kind of goal-line technology – whether it be additional officials or video replays – then today’s game may well have been important for reasons above and beyond the result. Perhaps something good can come out of this abject display after all.

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