World Cup Second Round
England leave the World Cup and should take up immediate residence in a museum of football history. The tactics creaked as painfully as the veterans and Fabio Capello's ponderous 4-4-2 would have made players lumber even if they still had a spring in their step. The manager is renowned, yet his first international post has led to England's heaviest defeat at the World Cup finals.
It is not wholly sure that he will continue in the job. Capello's men have contrived to fail more severely than the line‑up beaten 4-2 by Uruguay in 1954. There are ripostes of a sort to that and England would have pulled level at the Free State Stadium had it not been for hapless officiating. A fixture haunted by history could have done without a ghost goal.
Neither the Uruguyan referee, Jorge Larrionda, nor his assistant Mauricio Espinosa noticed Frank Lampard's drive in the 39th minute come off the bar and bounce a foot or more over the line. The score should have been tied at 2-2 and the natural German retort that one of Geoff Hurst's goals in the 1966 World Cup was imaginary hardly makes the blunder of officials more palatable in Bloemfontein.
The lasting conclusion is that England were neither as sleek, co-ordinated or quick as their opponents. If the team were to scramble further at the World Cup, they had to see impact from Wayne Rooney. The attacker was yet again out of touch and once more let his frustration lead him into futile positions. There should be recognition that he was almost alone in the party as an embodiment of excellence who can still tell himself that the best days lie ahead. No matter how they rage against injustice, his team-mates should appreciate in some cobwebbed corner of their minds that they were outplayed.
Their greater experience proved a burden. It has to be understood that the leaden-footedness kept England off the pace throughout the tournament. They were obliged to take on Germany because they had come second in their group. Solutions are all but out of reach, too, for a line-up that clumsily pieces together three goals in four matches, with Jermain Defoe the sole striker to hit the net.
England were struck by an injustice but the enduring reflection has to be that the means did not exist to recover from it. While the latest wave of pleas for the introduction of goal-line technology look reasonable, it is not an item for Capello's own agenda. Should he stay in the post, he will have to refresh the line-up for the Euro 2012 qualifiers. He is unlikely to be in charge for the 2014 World Cup.
When there is no one left to listen to grievances over this elimination, people will show more regard for the fluency and deadliness of Germany. Their showing was a triumph for the coach, Joachim Löw, who has pieced together many players of modest experience and swiftly achieved success without sacrificing flair. If Capello can muster the humility, he might care to find out how this is achieved.
The Bundesliga would appear to be a better nursery for budding talent than the Premier League. Capello had spoken in the past about an appearance in the semi‑finals as a realistic objective, yet that turned a blind eye to the inexorable deterioration of senior players. They did not look as if they belonged in such a fixture any longer and Gareth Barry was highly culpable in the third and fourth goals.
The opener was a humiliation as a goal-kick from Manuel Neuer saw Miroslav Klose hold off Matthew Upson with ease before scoring in the 20th minute. Even then England had no means to keep calamity at bay. Germany pounced again on 32 minutes as the devastating Thomas Müller, who eventually took a pair of goals for himself, assembled a one-two with Sami Khedira before sweeping Klose's through ball to the left of the goalmouth, where Lukas Podolski, despite narrowing his angle with a heavy first touch, slotted a shot through David James's legs.
This, for all the excellence, is an emerging Germany side rather than the implacable sort of times gone by and England responded simply. Following a short corner, Lampard clipped a cross that was nodded in by Upson after 37 minutes. A little earlier Defoe had headed against the bar from a Glen Johnson delivery. Although a hapless England were behind at the interval Germany's control had not been absolute. Indeed Capello's side struck the woodwork once more, with a 35-yard free-kick from Lampard seven minutes into the second half. As is so often the case with this England line-up, a lack of rhythm and pattern does not stop them from fashioning moments of threat, whether with a set piece or a quick pass.
There was nothing, all the same, to compare with the technique and calm with which Germany broke to establish a 3-1 advantage in the 68th minute. After Lampard had sent a free-kick into the defensive wall Löw's side raced away, with Müller finding Bastian Schweinsteiger on the left and converting the eventual return ball at the far post. A peerless Müller also took his side's fourth two minutes later, with Mesut Ozil going clear and leaving the Bayern Munich player to attend to the formalities. All England's exertions could do was pile up ever more proof of their inadequacy.