England 1 - 1 USA
Gerrard 4 Dempsey 40
My friend Sean came round to watch this with me. There's been a steady stream of visitors, actually, both family and friends. I reckon they've organised a rota, to make sure I get dressed at least every few days. I'm touched, but I've got other priorities right now. If people really want to help, send pizza. Or bhajis and samosas, or those lovely Polish sausages. What the hell did people eat before immigration? Chard?
I'm struggling a little bit to write this, on account of the beer. It's not that I'm hungover, it's just that after five minutes of the game I realised the beer was going to make proper note taking impossible and gave up, and now I've forgotten what the hell happened.
At least I lasted long enough to get down the first goal. Gerrard!!! is all it says, though. Sometimes beer and excitement have very similar effects.
This could be fun! said the commentator, and it was hard to disagree. I'd already sent a recklessly hubristic text to my friend Dave. I'm feeling queasy, he'd texted me at the start. I'd just had time to reply with Relax, we're basically playing Watford before the first goal seemed to confirm my words. Well Jay Demerit was in the team, he plays for Watford, they didn't have anyone better than him to fill that spot, so we were playing Watford, I reasoned. Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with optimism.
It was a lovely goal. Heskey flicked it to Gerrard as he ran across the front of the box, and Gerrard got clear through and tucked it away past Howard very nicely thank you. Strangely, though, the expected dominance and besieging of the Watford goal failed to materialise. In fact the best effort for the next half hour came from Altidore, who headed wide from point blank range. He doesn't play for Watford. He plays for Hull. For Christ's sake. Hull, Watford, these are some mighty titans we struggled against. How would we cope with Messi?
And you all know what happened next. Robert Green's Scott Carson moment. I haven't bloody well forgotten about that. Dempsey hit a speculative effort from thirty yards, it rolled through gently to Green and he - well, I hardly need say. In fact, I don't see why I should. I'm already seeing it in my mind's eye over and over again, and I hardly see the need to reinforce that by spelling it out. I've got that godawful Dr Hook song stuck in my brain as well, but I haven't gone and typed out the lyrics. When you're in love with a beautiful woman ... Oh sorry, now I've done it to you. Still, maybe it'll drive out the Green debacle.
In the second half we actually played quite well, but without the impact we really needed. You watch your friends ... Heskey was clear through on goal, but hit it at a nice height for Howard to block.
We missed Ledley King, though, who'd gone off at halftime with a groin strain. You know that film, Unbreakable? Sure wasn't made about our defenders. It meant there was no-one able to stop Altidore running through, but somehow Green managed to deflect it onto the post and clear. Then somebody hangs up when you answer the phone ... Every one said he'd redeemed himself except for Gareth Southgate, who thought he was lucky not to have made another bad error by letting one in at the near post. Harsh, but true.
We tried, and we weren't terrible. Crouch came on and achieved his main aim of being tall, and Rooney had one quality shot that flashed just wide. No-one really sucked, except Green just for one awful second, but it was hard to feel inspired.
The final whistle came too soon, and we realised we'd have to settle for a draw. Watford my arse, as Dave put it so succinctly, and once more my hubris had only led to the inevitable nemesis of English mediocrity.
But there are two pieces of good news. Firstly, we've achieved the same result against the US that Italy did in the group stages in 2006, and they went on to win the Cup. Secondly, Algeria and Slovenia were really shit, and all we have to do is beat them by more than the US do and we top the group.
So I reckon it's all going to be fine. Problem is, I've been had before ...