It often happens. You begin by rooting for a team and then they bomb. They destroy expectations. You can’t believe it. And then just before the flicker of the flame goes out forever, the wind stops and it seems to grow a bit brighter and vivid. Until it slowly creeps back into the races. This is always a great situation, because it wins over the hearts of fans are tests the souls of true players fighting back with something to gain.
All of this has happened to England. They dominated play today against the Slovenian team at Nelson Mandela Stadium, after starting the tournament with a meagre two draws, tying with the US team (who now seem to be following suit) and the Algerians, and earning only one goal and two points from destination A to B. But things were different: strutting out of the locker room in crimson red, they looked something they haven’t at all yet at the Cup: fierce.
As Globe and mail Geoffrey York put it, most of the game against Slovenia was “just what the doctor ordered for England – a nice, bright first half which they dominated, showing a creative, coherent attack for just about the first time in the tournament.”
Jermaine Defoe scored the first and only goal of the match, but in general it can be said that the team looked much better than in its previous two matches. Defoe and especially Rooney ran more, and better, basically controlled much of the ball possession through the game (61 per cent possession). This was something of a successful risk, as the pair had not scored in the last four matches they have started together. Slovenia by no stretch played a poor game, but were all the same, no match for the English.
Yet despite the win, some are still plagued with doubts about the English team, who looked particularly desperate and hungry for the win. After the game, players were seen to celebrate as if they had just beaten Brazil, whereas in reality Slovenia is a nation with a population of 2 million. The goal by Defoe marks only the second goal the team has obtained in three games at the World Cup, and his first since September of 2009.
Other news was seen as Joe Cole, who had previous sat out the last two games, came on to relief Rooney.
According to press, after the match Capello told cameras: “The mind of the players is no free and clear of doubt.” This may relate to his recent analysis that the downfall of the squad was mainly because they had yet to exorcise fear of performing. John Terry publicly denounced this analysis and called it “insulting.”
It is clear that the English were able to put out the potential civil fire that started a few days ago between Terry and Capello and engulfed the French. As well there can be no doubts that in the face of harsh criticism and heavy doubt they have remained formidable, refusing to fall back into the corners of elimination.
A late and miraculous goal by Donovan in the American – Algeria match means that England will still finish second in their division, and face the winners of Group D.
Earlier today Capello had said that he believes England can make the final. His words seem more credible now, but doubts remain. They are going to have a hard time with all of the other winners of the tournament —especially the South American teams if they can make it that far, who are presently waiting to up the ante in the next round.