Sunday, June 13, 2010

"It's not easy bein' Green..."

HOLLYWOOD has always done a prolific line in movies about gallant Americans getting one over on the dastardly – or doltish – English.
So Saturday night’s events could make a sequel to The Game Of Their Lives, the 2005 film – seldom seen in UK cinemas, funnily enough – about the USA’s 500-1 humiliation of Billy Wright’s England at the 1950 World Cup.
When asked at the Americans’ farm base in Centurion who might play him in a 2010 follow-up, US captain Landon Donovan suggested: ‘I do like Johnny Depp.’
Edward Scissorhands would probably prove a safer bet in goal than England’s Robert Green, mind.
As goalkeeping gaffes go, Green’s was a classic – perhaps aptly so, for a footballer who once snubbed the usual sports autobiographies or Andy McNab thrillers to name his all-time favourite book as the Iliad by Homer.
All together now: d’oh!
Many years from now, will East Enders be going on and on about how West Ham lost the World Cup in 2010?
Or does Green, like England’s 1950 goalkeeper Bert Williams, have an MBE to look forward to, in 60 years’ time?
***
Armour-clad English knights faced off against Captain America clones - including one in stars-and-stripe face-paint and cape in the stadium media centre, suggesting an impartiality worthy of England’s fervent Fifth Estate.
US Soccer chief Sunil Gulati said the match generated more ‘watercooler’ interest Stateside than any football match in history – though admitted many assumed it was the actual World Cup final.
First-timers tuning in might still be bemused it could end an unsatisfying tie.
Yet there should be little patronising the – admittedly shrill - US support inside the stadium, estimated at 10,000 to England’s ‘meagre’ 6,000.
It certainly seemed a little unnecessary for the stadium announcer to keep booming out the current scoreline – as if assuming we were watching in ITV HD.

***
Making his way to the team bus, Glen Johnson snorted in scorn when a journalist (from elsewhere) asked him whether it was time for ‘England in crisis’ headlines – not that his say-so was being sought, of course.
And Jamie Carragher was keen to make comparisons with England’s 1990 World Cup opener, after recently watching it on ESPN.
He has a point – that was another turgid 1-1 draw, against a bunch of well-drilled, limited but physical English-speakers, with possible salvation still to come against some North Africans.
If desperate – and after that display, why not? – you could also point out America’s equaliser came from a left-sided midfielder with a name ending in ‘-y’.
The scapegoat for Kevin Sheedy’s 1990 goal for the Republic of Ireland was Steve McMahon who – Rob Green, look away now – won a grand total of three more England caps.
Now if only, after all those alleged omens, we had a Gazza-esque midfield schemer in their somewhere - or at least anyone anywhere near half as creative, play-making...
***
Johnson emerged from the dressing room sporting a brightly-glowing lower-lip, suggesting he spent Fabio Capello’s post-match team-tirade sucking a Strawberry Mivvi for comfort.
He was keen to point out it was caused by an errant elbow – quickly fingering goalscorer Dempsey, so to speak.
Yet he stayed silent, when invited to politely confirm it must have been accidental.

***
Saturday night was a deflating experience in more ways than one.
A burst tyre when lost somewhere in the middle of South African outback nowhere – and in the early hours of the morning – was not ideal for the nerves. Or the patience.
Without even being able to blame Rob Green for this mishap.
Instead, curse the crater-pockmarked excuses for roads that replaced the more sleek and even highways -about 50 yards beyond England’s Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace base.

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