English goalkeeper Robert Green's horrible gaffe allowed the United States to earn a shocking 1-1 draw against England on Saturday at the FIFA World Cup in Rustenburg, South Africa.
The main story line
Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and David Seaman are just three legendary goalkeepers from the past who represented England with distinction.
If only the English could call upon one of them now, they would have to be considered a legitimate World Cup contender. But they don't, and what England was once famous for — strong goalkeeping — is now its Achilles heel.
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The Three Lions' glaring weakness was exposed in the cruellest fashion on Saturday, as Robert Green fumbled a slow, rolling shot from Clint Dempsey late in the first half, allowing the ball to slip through his hands and into the back of the net.
Dempsey's weak attempt from outside the box should have been easily stopped by the English goalkeeper, who was not under pressure on the play. But he somehow misplayed it, and in doing so let the Americans back in the game just before the halftime break.
Green's gaffe underlined England's major weakness (between the posts) and raised the question of who will be his replacement — and make no mistake about it, Green won't be in net for England's next game.
Will coach Fabio Capello go with David James, the error-prone veteran? Or will he select Joe Hart, the unproven youngster? Both goalkeepers have their faults, so either way, the Italian has a tough decision to make.
Turning point of the game
Except for subbing the ineffective James Milner out of the game after 30 minutes, the English had everything going their way before Green's comical error. In the second half, England began to cough up the ball too easily and looked lost in midfield at times, while the Americans grew in confidence and began asking serious questions of the English defence.
What this result means
The United States and England are tied for first place with one point apiece, ahead of Slovenia and Algeria, who face off Sunday. While England will be disappointed that it didn't earn the win and take the three points, it would be grossly premature for the critics to write off their chances of qualifying for the second round. They still have two games to go, with plenty of time to set things right. The Americans will be pleased with the point, as most expected they would lose this game.
Goal of the match
It took England just four minutes to open the scoring, and what a goal it was, the product of a picture-perfect passing play. After an English throw-in, Frank Lampard nudged the ball across to Emile Heskey who played a short, lovely pass into the path of Steven Gerrard. The English captain took the ball in full stride before slotting it past American goalkeeper Tim Howard with the side of his foot.
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Man of the match
AC Milan defender Oguchi Onyewu was outstanding for the Americans. His brilliant performance in holding together the defence is all the more impressive when you consider he only recently returned to action following a lengthy injury layoff. But he showed no signs of rustiness against England
Save of the match
Heskey broke in on goal for England in the 52nd minute and looked a certain bet to score. But instead of playing the ball across to teammate Wayne Rooney, the English forward blasted a powerful shot straight at Howard, and the American goalkeeper did well to hold his position and make the save without giving up a rebound.
The English perspective
"Unfortunately we've let a poor goal in and we couldn't go on and get the winner. The goal shocked us a bit. ... It took us a while to get over it." — midfielder Steven Gerrard
The American perspective
"Our first game is still about getting something, but when you go behind early, I thought the response was good. I think after the goal, we started to put some plays together and built up confidence." — coach Bob Bradley
The U.S. takes on Slovenia in Johannesburg on June 18 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 9:45 a.m. ET), while England meets Algeria on the same day in Cape Town (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2:15 p.m. ET).