Thursday, 24 June 2010

Goup C - final games

England 1 - 0 Slovenia
Defoe 22

USA 1 - 0 Algeria
Donovan 90 + 2

A turnaround, of a kind. Not enough to justify doing the Douglas Bader joke again, but signs of progress, or at least the desire for some.

The goal came early, fortunately. After 22 minutes Defoe got onto Milner's cross and shot home from close range, under pressure from Suler. Slovenians may have felt their keeper could have done better, but in truth it was straight at him, on him and through him faster than human reflexes can be expected to work.

And he had a good game otherwise, Handanovic. If it wasn't for him Gerrard would have scored a few minutes later, but he blocked the shot, then twisted to grab it before it crossed the line. Lampard, meanwhile, blasted over with an empty goal before him when he surely ought to have done better. It was an awkwardly bouncing ball, but he is supposed to be Frank Lampard, after all.

After the break Defoe put a great chance wide in the first minute, while Rooney was just offside as he ran onto a Gerrard pass and crossed for Defoe to tap in. Later, Terry's header from a corner was kept out by another Handanovic save, while Rooney's unchallenged shot hit the post and bounced left, the wrong way. Apparently a glaring miss, the replay showed this to be a great save as well, Handanovic's fingertips causing the two degree deflection that stopped the shot going bouncing right and in.

Terry's header was unlucky, and he did his bit at the other end too. At one point he blocked a Novakovic shot, then hurled himself across the box in a vain attempt to block Jokic's effort with his face. Fortunately perhaps, it was Johnson's foot that did the necessary, and Birsa blasted the rebound wide, but today no-one is talking about Terry as anything other than a hero.

And this is how he handles his life. In the twelve years of his senior career, he's played 391 games for Chelsea, Nottingham Forest and England. Allowing 96 minutes a game, that's an average of eight minutes and forty nine seconds a day when people actually like him. For a man like him, that may be enough.

It was a tense last ten minutes, knowing that one slip up meant elimination, but England held on. They spent most of injury time down by the Slovenian corner flag, the least nerve-racking place for them to be. They could have stayed there from the twenty third minute and it would have been fine by me. I'm full of Stoical tips for all the other countries, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

Poor Slovenia, though. After a tournament beyond expectations, they go out to a last minute US winner against Algeria. Their performance against the US alone ought to have earned them something, but you could say the same about the US, and we can't all go through.

The highlights of the USA v Algeria game are worth a watch, if you're up for it. Donovan's last minute winner gives them a game against Ghana, while England face Germany. Again. I just can't stand it.

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