The first half of today’s match began as one for the history books (or perhaps the history I Pads), but ended in a crushing defeat for England.
The Three Lions showed glimpses of why many analysts picked them to be among the top teams in the tournament (and, yes, they were robbed of a clear goal right before halftime), but over the course of the match they were overpowered by an organized, efficient, and downright lethal German attack.
Germany repeatedly caught the English defense off guard, sending the red-shirted Englishmen scurrying like bewildered schoolchildren.
The Germans opened up the Deutchlandergoalfest in the 20th minute with a goal from their go-to guy, striker Miroslav Klose.
Goalkeeper Neuer, playing some sort of German Moses, split the English defense like the Red Sea with a punt that bounced deep in the English half of the field and into the path of Klose, who kept sturdy England defender Matthew Upson at bay with a stiff arm that would have made Walter Payton proud. Then, with reptilian poise, the killer, Klose, prodded the ball past English goalkeeper David James as he tumbled to the turf.
Klose was thwarted on another great chance in the 30th minute as England’s defense once again crumbled like a shortbread cookie. (Or should I say biscuit?) But they were made to pay again just two minutes later by Germany’s other top attacking threat, Lukas Podolski, who fired off a rocket from a seemingly impossible angle.
But the Three Lions weren’t about to take that lying down. Their pride had been pricked. It was time to go out on the prowl, hunting for goals.
They shook their manes and struck back struck back immediately. First Upson made up for being overpowered by Klose earlier and headed the ball home on a corner kick cross. After the goal, the stubble-faced Upson was seen roaring “C’mon” to teammates. The goal and the fire from Upson must have given the Three Lions the boost they needed, because star Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard then scored less than two minutes later.
That’s when history intervened.
What happened next was a stunning reversal of 1966 – the famous “Ghost Goal” against West Germany by England’s Geoff Hurst in the final. To this day, Germans say the ball never crossed the line, and without the dozen-odd camera angles of today's World Cup, the video is inconclusive. But it was granted, and England went on to claim its only World Cup title, 4-2.
On Sunday, perhaps the only two people in the world who didn't see England midfielder Frank Lampard's lob clip the crossbar and bounce a clear yard beyond the goal line were the linesman and the referee. No slow motion or multiple camera angles were needed. Yet when Neuer scooped up the ball and played on, the referee, too, carried on in perhaps the most shocking bit of officiating in a poorly officiated World Cup so far.
The incident will surely bring the calls for soccer's governing body, FIFA, to incorporate instant reply to a crescendo. But it did not inspire England to take retribution upon the Germans.
England came out in the second half surprisingly timid, but began to find some nice offense.
They started to pick apart the German defense with some crisp passing. Lampard continued his love affair with the crossbar, hitting it again on a nice free kick in the 55th minute. And the Three Lions began licking their chops.
But in their hungry pursuit of the goal, England lost sight of Germany's speed and passing. And, with typical German precision, England was made to pay for it.
In the 67th minute, Bastian Schweinsteiger keyed a masterful German counterattack. Drawing the English defense infield with him, he laid a simple pass to the charging Thomas Müller on the wing, who blasted the ball past James, who had guessed the wrong way.
A couple minutes later, the lightning-quick German counterattack struck again.
The ball was played deep to Mesut Özil, who sprinted with the ball down the flank, waiting for English wingback Ashley Cole to commit. When Cole did, Özil slipped a lovely ball through Cole's legs and across the face of goal to a waiting Müller who side footed it into the back of the net.
Another gift from England’s haphazard defense. Another gift from Germany’s calm attackers to Müller. Another goal.
It was the dagger to the heart. England was done.
The refs, had they been merciful, might have ended the game there. But rules are rules and the players dutifully played through the final whistle; England like zombies, Germany like deserving quarterfinalists.
World Cup 101: