World Cup Sunday: Refs cook England, Mexico

Germany 4, England 1

England started slowly as usual but played a quality team for the first time all tournament—as such, England were 2-0 down after half an hour. The first goal came off a long ball that John Terry and Matthew Upson made a hash of, allowing Miroslav Klose to poach a goal expertly. The second goal came on a break where the Germans ripped England apart, Lukas Podolski finishing matters off by putting it through England keeper David James’ five-hole.

Undaunted, England picked themselves up when Upson made amends for his earlier error on 37 minutes by heading a free kick home past confused, wandering German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. It should have been 2-2 moments later when Frank Lampard’s long-range missile hit the underside of the bar and bounced down inside the goal, firmly hitting the ground past the line. Neuer grabbed the ball at waist-height and ran it out… no goal.

[Confidential message to any German who still feels aggrieved by Sir Geoff Hurst’s phantom goal for England against West Germany in the 1966 Final: after 44 years, you’re even. You can shut up now. Thanks very much.]

England started the second half on the front foot, and Lampard stung the bar again. England had to keep pressing and it led to disaster. Two German counterattacks midway through the frame sealed the victory. Similar in nature and four minutes apart, Thomas Mueller first finished off a sweet give-and-go with Bastian Schweinsteiger. Mueller also had the last touch on the other goal, capping a great individual effort from Mesut Oezil.

This space was convinced that England were garbage coming into this tournament. Although England were ultimately second-best today, the scoreline is a little harsh. If Lampard’s goal had been allowed, England had every chance to win this. This was England’s best game of the World Cup, and it sends them home.

Germany, for their part, are young and talented—but a little lucky that the talent decided to play for Germany. Fully 11 players of the 23-man squad could have chosen an international career for a different country. The German pedigree is a pretty strong magnet, but nothing’s guaranteed in this world. The German nation should feel fortunate to be able to field such a strong side. 

Argentina 3, Mexico 1

Mexico had more chances in the first half but fell behind 2-0. The first goal was headed home by Carlos Tevez from a clearly offside position. I like to rant that the offside rule is poor because it often forces the linesman to look in two places at once (the ball, and the last line of defence, which is often 20 yards upfield). On this one, there was no excuse to blow the call by either the linesman or the ref as the sightline should have been perfect. They blew it regardless.

Mexican rightback Ricardo Osorio (76 caps) gifted Gonzalo Higuain the second goal by clumsily passing him the ball when he thought he was passing to a teammate. Higuain broke in and scored easily. Osorio’s a free agent, and his phone won’t be ringing in the next little while.

Osorio and Mexico might still have been reeling from the offside call seven minutes prior, but it’s all too common for the Mexicans to lose their heads at the World Cup. Mexico, a soccer-mad country of 110 million souls, has only ever reached the last eight of the World Cup as hosts. The team finds new ways to underachieve on the world’s biggest stage time after time.

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The teams traded goals in the second half. Carlos Tevez had one of the strikes of the tournament to put the Argies up 3-0 and out of reach on 52 minutes. Mexico had a goal not given which might have been over the line, but Javier Hernandez scored before the ball ever subsequently went out of play so the matter wasn’t really contested. And that was that.

Germany face Argentina in what should be a mouthwatering quarterfinal.