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Germany 4. England 1. Seventieth minute. Martin Tyler: "Off comes [Jermain] Defoe. On comes [Emile] Heskey." Football's equivalent of throwing in the towel. England was utterly undone today, by a first German goal that was classic English 1970s kick-and-rush (how do you say that in German again, Mr. Beckenbauer?) and then by the comedic negation of a potential equalizer that was 1966 redux.
The World Cup organizers have to get only two things right before every game: providing a ball and supplying an even-headed match official. Conjuring the Jabulani and Jorge Larrionda, a Uruguayan with a checkered past who, in his spare time, "enjoys breeding animals, mainly birds dogs and parrots," was a failure on both counts.
Truth be told, we English should not let the searing injustice of the blown call prevent us from seeing the truth: We were utterly outclassed by Germany today. Wayne Rooney looked lost. Our midfield was cramped throughout. Our defenders were so shoddy, one can only guess David James was selected because of his season-long experience playing behind duff players at hapless Portsmouth. The last 20 minutes of the game were akin to watching Portugal batter North Korea. Even worse, perhaps, as Don Fabio did not benefit from strategic counsel via an invisible phone connection to Kim Jong-il.
And so it ends. This bad weekend, which was witness to two overwhelming defeats. The U.S., for whom the loss left behind a numbing sense that there could have been so much more. And England. Crushed and humiliated. About to face a media bloodletting. And then, perhaps most painfully, forced to confront a reality in which, despite our overinflated expectations and tabloid overdrive, we are ordinary, lackluster and lacking when it counts.