BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

Jermaine Defoe was a young footballer at Charlton Athletic before – at 14 – defecting to West Ham because as a club they would be better for him. He was a part of a West Ham side that got relegated before exiting to Spurs and a return to the Premier League where he felt he did not get enough games so he went to Portsmouth. From Portsmouth he returned to Spurs. A career where all along he has demanded chance after chance after chance often in dismissal of what was around him be it other players of team. He has spent his whole career tell everyone how good he is and how he needs to be given a chance.

Two draw, home if England do not win, and Fabio Capello has given him that chance. Defoe has ninety minutes against Slovenia to prove he is what he had promised and England have ninety minutes to avoid an ignominious, inglorious defeat the repercussions of which for the players and for the national game can hardly be imagined.

This is the pressure, and welcome to it.

“No more talking, no more excuses” the media are saying. For all the discussions that have come out of the camp this week there have been no excuses and plenty of Mea Cupla. Almost certainly though the talking will not stop.

The USA need a win against Algeria to progress and with Algeria having fewest points in the group they will hope to get one although should the North Africans be victorious they will switch eyes to the England game to try with the hope of a win or draw for Slovenia of a two goal swing from them.

Capello is without Jamie Carragher – best of a bad bunch against Algeria – and drafts in Matthew Upson to replace him. James Milner returns too in place of Aaron Lennon and it is Milner who makes a key difference for England providing a trust down the right hand side. His performance – and a general increase all round – give a lift to the side taking the pressure off the shoulders of Rooney, of Steven Gerrard, of Frank Lampard.

As England’s football flows Algeria’s is lively and they hit the bar against the USA but are soon buried under chances as the Americans seek out a goal which will put them through. Clint Dempsey has the ball in the net after Raïs M’Bohli had saved Herculez Gomez’s shot and the ball was put over but the flag went up against the Americans.

No flag – nothing – stopped Defoe who is on the end of a cross by Milner and gets in front of Boštjan Cesar to finish from inside the six yard box. For Defoe it is deliverance and justification. For everyone else is was release.

England looked rampant and could have doubled their lead on numerous occasions with Gerrard seeing his calm shot saved following good work from Rooney and in the second half Rooney slipping past the defence and seeing his shot come back off the post. Frank Lampard tests the keeper with a free kick and England look like the team that they promised to be.

John Terry and Matthew Upson are solid at the back – Upson’s performance being especially notable – while David James is outstanding mastering a torn up pitch, faultless. The Slovenians have keeper Samir Handanovi? to thank for their place in the second round which at the final whistle they have.

Landon Donovan – a minute into time added on and after a half of end to end football – powers into the box as the Americans throw everything at goal. The ball bounces loose from M’Bohli’s save and rolls towards him. Donovan is a foot from the ball and his eyes are locked on it. Slovenia’s players are asking what the score it, being told they are through as Donovan puts his foot through the ball and watches it goes towards the goal.

Perhaps then Slovenia’s management in the form of Matjaž Kek might wonder what could have been. They have defended well for three games but a mistake against Algeria and a good first half against USA they hardly got an attacking head of steam and that they go out late does not mask the fact that they came to the World Cup to frustrate. That that did not work is no bad thing. They go out.

As do Algeria who join the African exodus. They failed to win or score and showed little enterprise to a point where one struggles to image what their aims were. Practical football has to include an attacking element and one can hardly say they did.

England go through second and are vastly improved. Gareth Barry struggled for form after his lay off but Glenn Johnson and Ashley Cole played the full back roles in a way which will delight Capello. Rooney’s extra day – England play on Sunday next – will help him heal. Job done, and some, and the scoreline should have been more.

The day though belongs to the USA who seemed to be impotently going out of the competition but had their man – Donovan – appearing in the nick of time to put them through as group winners.

England have the beginning to their World Cup, the American’s have their Hollywood ending.

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