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FIFA World Cup: England weave a familiar tale as they draw against USA

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steven_gerrard.jpgA lot was made of England's chances prior to the start of the tournament with Fabio Capello in-charge and looking to have refurbished the golden generation of English players, but it was 'same old same old' for the Three Lions as they only mustered a 1-1 draw against USA at Rustenburg. The Americans came into this game with a real desire to win while also to grab top spot in Group C by the scruff of it's neck and their intentions were all to evident. England were disappointing after having scored the game's opening goal as early as the 4th minute, and Robert Green's horrific error late in the first half added to their woes, ensuring that the Americans shared points with the favourites on the night.

Fabio Capello started off with a conventional 4-4-2 with Robert Green placed between the sticks even as the veteran David James, started his 3rd straight World Cup campaign on the bench. Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey were the two strikers up front with Aaron Lennon and James Milner providing the service from the flanks. USA, another propagator of old school football began with a conventional 4-4-2. Jozy Altidore started alongside Robbie Findley with Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan providing the width. Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley were picked to compete with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the middle of the park.

England began their World Cup campaign in the best possible way when new captain Steven Gerrard put the Three Lions ahead in the 4th minute. Emile Heskey found the oncoming Liverpool skipper and slid it in his path, who calmly slotted the ball past Tim Howard for his 17th international goal. Stevie G seemed to have entered a trance after that as he got stuck into tackles and started reprimanding and cheering his team alternatively. Jozy Altidore had a great chance with a quarter of an hour on the clock to equalise but powered his header wide leaving Capello fuming at his defence for not winning the aerial battles. James Milner became the first player to be booked in the game for his tackle on Cherundolo with slightly under 30 minutes up in the game. The resultant free kick almost saw the US level things up, but Oguchi Onyewu's header went agonizingy wide of the goal.

Young Milner was probably playing the biggest game of his life but his manager decided to end it prematurely by bringing on Shaun Wright-Phillips at the half hour mark for the Aston Villa midfielder. Milner looked uncomfortable on the left and Capello decided to rectify his error immediately by bringing the more skillful and swift Manchester City winger into the fray. The game had a good flow to it with England looking fairly comfortable soaking the little pressure the Americans were putting on them. Calamity struck for the Three Lions in the 40th minute when Clint Dempsey's weak effort was not properly collected by Robert Green and the ball trudged slowly into the goal before the West Ham keeper could gather it. One felt for the young keeper who was given such a big responsibility on the night. The score line probably gave us a good account of the half with the Americans looking confident and fluent in possession.

Fabio Capello's half time team talk would have involved a couple of shrieks and screams and a lot of eye balls glaring at Robert Green. The second half started off with the news of Jamie Carragher coming on for Ledley King, a direct swap in the heart of defence. Questions over Ledly King's fitness were raised after this move as the substitution was baffling to say the least. Emile Heskey was given ounces of space thanks to a defence splitting pass from Lennon, 5 minutes into the 2nd half but the Aston Villa forward whacked the ball straight into the hands of Tim Howard. The burly striker should have given his side the lead and one wondered how things would have been had Rooney been given a similar opportunity.

The Americans were winning all the aerial battles on both sides of the pitch and a lot of intensity was infused into the game. Jozy Altidore had a brilliant one-on-one situation after he fought off the ageing Carragher, but Robert Green palmed the ball onto the post, redeeming himself to a certain extent. Another potential match winning opportunity went begging, this time for the Americans as the game remained locked at 1-1. Shaun Wright-Phillips had the 24th shot on goal in the game when Wayne Rooney set him free on the left but his strike was parried away by Howard. Despite the stats looking so full of abundance, and the game being end-to-end, there were only a handful of real clear cut chances. Heskey had another opportunity from a pin point cross from Gerrard, but his header went miles over.

Onyewu was probably one of the most inspiring players on the pitch, playing his first competitive game since August, the AC Milan defender guarded the goal as if his life depended on it. Peter Crouch came on for Emile Heskey in the 80th minute with Fabio Capello looking to change things a bit on the pitch. England were becoming nervy in the final minutes, losing their passing touch and giving away possession way too easily, thus inviting the Americans to make inroads. Altidore was taken off and Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden was brought on to prevent any last ripples inspired by the Three Lions. It ended 1-1 in Rustenburg with both teams half-pleased with the result.

Group C has been blown wide open after this draw with USA now having an equal chance of topping the group. Both teams have a point each with Algeria and Slovenia facing off tomorow. Italian manager Fabio Capello seemed to have lost the plot a little bit in his first ever World Cup game and one wouldn't be surprised if the English team come out all guns blazing against Algeria in their next encounter on Friday, the 18th of June. The Americans will be disappointed as they had a great chance of garnering a win against a disappointing English team and repeating that golden feat of 1950 when incidentally another goalkeeping error gave them a famous 1-0 winin Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

From a neutral perspective, the game was a terrific spectacle, but for the English and American fans, it serves up an excellent reminder of the number of deficiencies their team possess in an effort to making a solid run in the tournament. England were wasteful on either flank, and though Emile Heskey contributed to the goal, he looked far from scoring himself despite getting plenty of opportunities. Wayne Rooney was marked out of the game completely, and Frank Lampard was completely ineffectual in the current formation. England may need to review their big man - small man formation as it is unlikely to succeed against a half-decent defence, and should not let their vision be blurred by the couple of easy games that lie ahead.

The Americans lacked quality in the final third, and a 4-4-2 may work better with Dempsey playing up top rather than the left-wing. While the Fulham man did have an excellent game, he needs to be more central to be able to really contribute. The central midfield lacked creativity and a review of personnel may be necessary if the US wishes to bang in some goals to seriously challenge England for top spot.

Teams:

England: Green, Johnson, Terry, King (Carragher 46'), Cole, Lennon, Lampard, Gerrard, Milner (Wright-Phillips 31'), Heskey (Crouch 79'), Rooney

USA: Howard, Cherundolo, Onyewu, DeMerit, Bocanegra, Dempsey, Clark, Bradley, Donovan, Findley (Buddle 77'), Altidore (Holden 86')

England 1 - 1 USA

Steven Gerrard (England) 4th
Clint Dempsey (USA) 40th

Check out the Points Table

Also Read:

Slovenia 1 - 0 Algeria Match Report

File Photograph Copyright: Shaun Brooks

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