Germany 4-1 England
My Prediction: Germany
Let's start with the facts for England...
All of the talk, decade after decade, about this being England's year, no matter the year, no matter the England, came to another dreadful end today as the Three Lions crashed out of the 2010 World Cup at the hands of an unforgivable mistake by a linesman and an absolute hammering at the hands of a rampant Germany, who dominated the match from whistle to whistle. This entire match will always be remembered as a match of "what if" by England's fans and players; if Frank Lampard's legitimate goal, scored when the ball hit the crossbar and landed over the line, had been given, how might the outcome have changed? We'll never know; the linesman missed the call, the goal was not given and, down 2-1 after the half, England went in search of an equalizer and ended up getting punched on a brilliant counter attack by Germany. I have spent the hours since the end of the match reading the howls of injustice from the England fans and I can tell you, after watching two perfectly good goals by my own USA taken away by phantom calls, I am 100% behind them in the calls for Sepp Blatter to step aside. The President of FIFA has battled against replay technology and against putting a chip on the ball that would indicate when the ball has crossed the line, and his ridiculous decision to keep injustice in the game has come home to roost; it is unforgivable when the stakes are this high to have human error cost people legitimate goals, especially when the solutions are elegant and at the ready. Maybe the cries of English fans will get FIFA to change the game, but having watched the USA robbed twice and frankly, on the principle of fair play, you have to stand with them; It's time to fix the problem.
Would it have mattered? Well, at 2-2, England may have kept its shape better, but for all the controversy around the goal that wasn't, there is no denying that on the day Germany were the vastly superior side. Hands down and no question about it. The drama began in the 20th minute when German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer blasted a goal kick right down the middle of the pitch and right to Miroslav Klose, who shrugged off a challenge from Matthew Upson, saw no challenge from John Terry and toe poked the ball past an onrushing David James and into the net; a 1-0 thunderbolt that threw the question of England's defensive prowess out the window and begged the question of exactly what England were up to at the back. It was an absolute disaster for Terry, Upson and James and it was followed by another twelve minutes later when Germany broke free on the counterattack, Thomas Muller breaking free and sliding the ball wide to Lucas Podolski to made a heavy touch but recovered to power the ball underneath David James and in. 2-0, just like that. England falling to pieces.
Klose's 12th World Cup Goal Ties Him With Pelé On The All-Time List. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
As quickly as they were down, England were back in it; in the 37th minute, a cross from Steven Gerard found the head of Matthew Upson, who showed he was good for something on the pitch and beat Neuer to the ball to put England within a goal, 2-1. Moment later, Lampard blasted his shot off the crossbar and in, but the linesman and the ref did not give the goal; Neuer grabbed the bouncing ball and put it back into play, leaving Lampard in disbelief. From there, England were chasing a goal and after the half, with Wayne Rooney struggling for service and Jermain Defoe unable to make anything happen, it was a long road back. Joe Cole replaced a relatively ineffective James Milner on the right wing and England started throwing bodies forward, earning a free kick in from 25 yards out in the 67th minute. Lampard blasted it into the wall, and the break was on for Germany, with Schweinsteiger playing a great ball to Thomas Müller after Mesut Özil made a great run pulling English defenders with him, and Müller blasted the ball at David James, who couldn't make the save despite getting a touch on his elbow; 3-1 Germany now. Three minutes later, another fast break with a looping ball to Özil who sprinted past Gareth Barry on the left wing and slotted a nutmeg pass through Ashley Cole's legs to an unmarked Müller, who grabbed his second with an easy strike into an open net. 4-1 and a lights out performance by Germany.
Müller At The Double(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Despite Lampard's phantom goal not being given, there is no excuse and no question; Germany deserved this win and they played brilliantly. And despite a goal not given, England's back four conceded four goals to a younger, more athletic and more confident German side, who played with real flair and confidence on the night. While I am sad for the stars of my club team, Steven Gerrard, Glenn Johnson and Jamie Carragher, who will probably never earn a World Cup despite their desperate desire to win it all, you have to wonder if it is mental with England; can they loosen up, unburden themselves of the expectations and come out and enjoy the game again? The frustration of watching them play is that there is a great team in there somewhere, they simply need to be released from the bonds of history and cynicism. It didn't happen this time, but maybe one day it will. Either way, a brilliant performance by Germany, who progress through to the Quarterfinals with a huge, dominant win.
Argentina 3-1 Mexico
My Prediction: Argentina
The linesmen went 0-2 today as Argentina benefited from a no-call on a blatant off-sides to whip Mexico 3-1 in Johannesburg. Mexico controlled the early run of play, hitting the bar after Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero decided too late to try and make a play on the ball; another shot went just wide of the post as Argentina were on the back foot. But in the 26th minute, Carlos Tevez ran in on goal and hit his shot off of an onrushing Óscar Pérez, but the ball fell to Messi, who flicked it toward the empty goal; Tevez, standing two or three yards offside, put a head on it just to make sure it went in, and claimed the goal, 1-0. It was another blown call in a huge moment and Mexico were justifiably furious, surrounding the linesman and asking for the goal not to be given, but with no way to review the play, the referee was forced to follow his linesman's call and give the goal. From there, Mexico got down on themselves a little and when Ricardo Osorio mishit a sideways pass that he clearly meant to pull back, it went right to Gonzalo Higuain, who pounced on Osorio's mistake and hit the goal to make it 2-0 after only 33 minutes. Sound familiar? This was eerily similar to the start by England, and Mexico never recovered. 2-0 down in the World Cup is a massive mountain to overcome and try as they may (and they did), it was too much to do.
Doh! Higuain Scores (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
In the second half, the game went back and forth with Mexico opening up and searching for an opener, but in the 52nd minute, Carlos Tevez won the ball back after his own giveaway about 35 yards from goal and hit a screaming, unstoppable shot into the top right corner of the Mexican goal, making it 3-0, over and out; it was the second World Cup Round of 16 match in a row where Mexico allowed an Argentine wonder goal, and all credit to Tevez for knocking the absolute shit out of the ball. Mexico did earn a consolation goal in the 71st minute when Javier Hernandez made a quick turn at the top of the box to open some space for a left footed blast into the roof of the net; Romero looked as though he couldn't be bothered to try and stop the ball, and it allowed Mexico to hold out hope that they might grab a few more in the dying minutes, but a couple of brilliant defensive clearances by Gabriel Heinze made sure the door stayed closed and Argentina walked out 3-1 winners on the night. Heinze also headbutted the camera, then smacked it away, which was pretty funny...
Anyway, for all of my complaints about Maradona's team selection, he has gotten it 100% right so far; Argentina have won every game they have played and today, despite benefiting from a terrible blown call and a horrific giveaway by Osorio, they looked confident and deserving winners again. But still, Messi was contained; his influence was limited by great marking by his club mate Rafael Marquez, and despite a late shot that was saved, never really threatened the Mexican goal. But with balls flying in from Higuain and Tevez and a decent defense that has been able to hold the line, Argentina look fine going into next Saturday's massive match against Germany. That is going to be a crazy Quarterfinal between two tems at the top of their game right now. Buckle up, we have one of the games of the Tournament on the way...
Pérez Can't Stop Tevez's Shot (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Up Next: Day Eighteen: Round of 16