Our World Cup Dream in Tatters

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Germany 4 v 1 England (27.06.2010, World Cup 2010)

With confidence high after the qualifying campaign, we decided to fly out to the World Cup in South Africa for the business end of the tournament. With England rightly favourites to win a group that consisted of USA, Slovenia and Algeria, we confidently took the gamble to arrive a few days before the 2nd round knockout phase, and were preparing for a game against Ghana in Rustenburg.

Based on England winning the group, our predicted route to the final seemed completely achievable given the nature of the teams we would end up facing in that section of the draw. Teams like Ghana, Uruguay, Korea could be the opposition in England’s way before a potential semi final show down with Holland or Brazil in the semis. It looked so easy on paper.

An injury time winner by Landon Donovan for USA against Algeria in the final game of the group stages changed all that. England ended up finishing 2nd on goal difference and now faced a tricky knockout tie against the old enemy Germany in Bloemfontein instead!

After a long, draining journey from London that included a 10 hour flight to Nairobi in Kenya; a 5 hour flight on to Johannesburg; and a 6 hour coach journey from the Park City Transit to Bloemfontein, we arrived a day before the match feeling pretty knackered! The added stress of negotiating down town Jo’Burg and hanging around the Park City Transit Bus Terminal with a wedge full of Rand strapped to my waist had taken its toll!

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Shanty towns on the outskirts of Johannesburg….

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Sunset view from the coach en route to Bloemfontein…

The day before the game was a much needed recovery day, and with the sun shining we spent most of it relaxing at the Loch Logan waterfront area in the city centre. There were a few England fans starting to arrive throughout the day and the English media were beginning to turn up as well. A few interviews conducted with our flag providing the backdrop!

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Loch Logan Waterfront area in Bloemfontein…

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The English media in town monitoring the build up….

SA6Myself and Mark had tickets allocated through the FA’s official allocation. However there were quite a few tickets knocking about at reasonable prices in the days leading up to the game. Mark managed to pick up a ticket for £150 for his wife who had accompanied us on the trip.

SA8On match day the Loch Logan waterfront area was absolutely buzzing with both sets of supporters. There was a great atmosphere shared between England and German fans that day, with beers and banter flowing in the warm winter sunshine. Even the inevitable appearance of a squadron of inflatable spitfires was taken in good spirits by the Germans!

SA25Full of optimism and full of South African beers we headed off to the Free State Stadium feeling slightly anxious about the next few hours.

This was my first taste of world cup knockout football. A kill or be killed game. England’s record against ‘bigger nations’ in knockout tournament football didn’t make for happy reading. Since winning the World Cup in 1966 on home soil, England have failed to beat a top ten ranked team in the knockout stages of the world cup. Our whole trip to South Africa would hinge on the next 90 minutes of football.

SA10Germany really came out of the blocks, and started the game well. They played with pace, flair and invention that at times had England all over the place. With first half goals from Klose and Podolski, Germany were 2 nil up inside the first 30 minutes. It wasn’t looking good.

At this point the England fans were stunned into silence – another world cup dream teetering on the brink! But this is where football, for me, is like no other sport. Despite Germany’s domination, England will look back on this match and feel that maybe on another day they could have got something from the game.

Seemingly out of the match already, Matthew Upson scored a well placed headed goal from Gerrard’s cross to give England a lifeline on 37’. That goal at least halved the deficit before half time and suddenly gave the England fans a bit of hope.

Literally 90 seconds after that goal, Lampard hit a well struck lofted effort from 20 yards out, the ball hitting the underside of the bar and landing at least 2 feet over the line. We were stood at the other end of the stadium and it looked in. The wild celebrations were brought to an abrupt end though as the referee waved play on. England players caught celebrating the goal, then remonstrating with the ref, all at the same time as Germany mounted a counter attack!

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The goal that never was….

Within minutes of that incident text messages were coming through from England saying the ball had clearly cross the line. It was shades of 66 in some ways – albeit the other way round this time – the German’s benefiting from the referee and linesman’s call.

At half time there was a massive sense of injustice, but looking on the positive at least England had pulled one goal back before the break and were back in the tie.

England, to be fair, started the second half really well and had several half chances that on another day might have gone in. The best moment coming from a Lampard free kick that smacked against the bar leaving Neuer well beaten.

Despite some decent pressure applied by England, Germany produced two stunning counter attacks that effectively put the game to bed. Searching for the equaliser, and with bodies caught forward, England were punished on the break with Muller scoring twice in 3 minutes.

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The sun begins to set on England’s World Cup….

Although well beaten in the end, you couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if Lampard’s goal had stood, and England had got to half time at 2-2. The Germans are good…but would that have rocked them?…Knowing them probably not!

From an England perspective our trip to South Africa was over before it had really started! Post match and drowning our sorrows in a Loch Logan bar the realisation that another World Cup dream was over for England was hard to stomach.

I couldn’t help but reflect back on the memories of a decent qualifying campaign, and 18 months previous being sat along the Street of a Thousand Bars in Zagreb filled with optimism after England destroyed Croatia, where we started planning England’s route to the World Cup final! How it could end like this with a ‘dicking’ against Germany?! I suppose that sums up the trials and tribulations of watching England!

There are probably better ways of getting over a world cup exit; but a 9 hour, 655km overnight coach journey to Durban departing from Bloemfontein at 1am nursing a hangover won’t be in the handbook! It gave plenty of time for solace and reflection on why our World Cup dream had gone so horribly wrong.

Onto Durban then, we had Holland v Slovakia at the Moses Mahbida Stadium to look forward to the very next afternoon!

Goals:

Germany: Klose (20’), Podolski (32’), Muller (67’ & 70’)

England: Upson (37’)

Att: 40,510

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XInhK9U_Uzc

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