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Pierre's World Cup Diary

GAME 19, GROUP B, JUNE 15, 2006 --NUREMBERG
ENGLAND 2, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO 0
FINAL

Trial by Trinidad at Nuremberg for England. Will they rise to the occasion? Will they quit playing like a team not even worthy of taking the pitch against Sweden's under-18 girls' team? Will Beckham finally regrow some balls? At least for these ninety minutes? Stay tuned.

We're told that every player on the Trinidadian side has been promised 64 gallons of specially aged rum should they manage a victory against the English.

2... Jamie Carragher takes England's first shot...someone loses his shoe. They're chanting in Nuremberg. Shaka Hislop, my hero, the Trinidadian goalie who played like all 12 apostles last time out, has not yet been tested. And so far we're not seeing England's big stars shine from behind their befogged feet.

6... I spoke too soon, shot straight on goal by England's Michael Owen, Hislop mishandles it, the ball bounces back to Michael, who sends it sailing high for an American-football three-pointer, which, here, counts as an embarrassig sigh in every English pub from here to the Wall of Hadrian...

8... I'm liking what I see from England this time out: no dilly-dallying, no hestiation once the midfield has figured out its pattern: immediate passes down the wings (England's strength) for eventual crosses into the box; the crosses have not yet been as successful, but this is not the England of the foggy, nimrod-footed Paraguay game. Trinidad is less certain.

11... Corner, Bekham takes it... It's been the most action he's put forward all tournament.

15... More good attacking from England, this time a build down the left wing, a cross to the unlikely striking Peter Crouch who makes an accurate play for goal, but the great Hislop is there, batting it away for a corner--and to give Beckham the sense that he has reason to exist after all. Beckham's corner goes nowhere fast. Goal kick Trinidad.

18... England free kick from about 30 yards out, just right of goal, Beckham takes it, slams it squishily into the Trinidadian wall. Oh, and Gerrard on an attack outside the box taken down nastily, cynically for a yellow, and another direct kick. Let's see if Beckham repeats his meaninglessness. Lifted smoothly this time, high over the wall and toward the far post, where Peter Crouch rises, but not quite to the occasion.

23... Trinidad's Edwards takes a lap down the right wing, shoots from far, sends it far. Back to England.

25... The Anglo-Saxon world's focus on Wayne Rooney, instead of on the action on the field, continues to be one of this World Cup's tabloid nausea: Meanwhile England beginng to miss chances instead of making them, which may well lead to a belated entry of Wayne Rooney into this thing. There he is, bouncing around on the sideline. There is squealing in England.

29... Do these idiotic ESPN announcers even know that this is the England-Trinidad game? Here they go again blathering on about Team USA, as if the center of the world was Bruce Arena's navel.

33... More than thirty minutes in, a scoreless draw is not anywhere near what England was promising, though the team--the first 15 minutes and Lampard's just-now-wide shot aside--hasn't given reason to believe that there's more to the side than meets the heavy lidded eyes. This is Trinidad's window right here: take advantage of this England lull, make them pay.

37... So we're back to girlie-England play, while Trinidad's John Stern just took a corner kick and almost head-slammed it into England's goal.

38... No, this is not England being forced out of its rhythm. Same old story: teams aren't "forced out of their rhythms," teams entrap themselves in uninspired play, they give up heart and joy--what makes for jazzy football--and take on pretentious demeanors that make for Hamburg-gray football. That's what England is doing now.

42 Beckham just made the best cross of his 2006 World Cup career, a beautifully curved and timed arct to Peter Crouch, who was all by himself seven yards in front of goal. Crouch took a gift and turned it to a mushy slam out of play. Shame.

45... Trinidad corner...celared... TRINIDAD JUST HAD WHAT LOOKED LIKE A SURE GOAL HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR AN ALERT ENGLAND PLAYER SCISSOR-KICKING THE BALL OUT OF THE NET! IT WAS INCHES FROM A 1-0 TRINIDAD LEAD!

Injury time... what a shame for Trinidad. They would have had the well-deserved lead at the half but for that miraculous save by John Terry. Still, Trinidad's hearts shouldn't sink: this was proof that they're on par with England, and that England are not the side they pretend to be. Remember: England has yet to score in this World Cup, given that it owes its three-point fortunes to an own goal in the Paraguay match.

Second half...

Pre-tournament favorite my left foot. England showed its colors in the first game, and they were not bright. Too bad for Hislop, playing the time waster: he just earned himself a yellow.

47... Don't underestimate the power of yellows to rattle the player who earns them. Trinidad keeper Hislop has been a god from Olympus in the two games he's played. This is not the time to lose his concentration to jaundiced discipline.

49... And the damn announcers still lusting after Rooney. At what point does the FCC step in and start rating this inappropriate for children? "Is it just a little jogging or is there more intent to that," goes O'Brien on ESPN, salivating at the sight of Rooney taking a jog on the sidelines. Meanwhile Trinidad has put together an attack, and now a free kick into the box, but cleared wide. Goal Kick England.

52... Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, start your guillotines. England's game has again degenerated into a mish-mash of midfield muddles and duck-pond mimmicks whenever they make it near the Trinidadian box. At the moment it's Trinidad dominating, for reasons like this: England's Peter Crouch playing like he's Pele (he just tried a scissor kick swivel that sent the ball frequent-flying to Glasgow) when he should perhaps try to play more crouchy and centered.

56... Owen takes a nice pass from Bekham, from way out; Owen is at the near post, he flies into the ball, heads it nicely but just wide: that's the combination that has a little English on it. Forget the others.

57... Peter Crouch, once again takes gold and turns it to dust in the Trinidad box, and here comes England's Wayne Rooney, and the girls going wild, wet and wombish in the crowd (judging from FIFA's camera angles) But instead of taking out Peter Crouch, England takes out Michael Owen. Unbelievable.

59... The psychological effect alone of putting in Wayne Rooney will give England a big advantage for a moment, until Trinidad realizes (if it tries hard enough) that he's still part of a team that hasn't been able to play like one. But here come England, squaring off with another Beckham free kick... that sails past everyone. Rooney already is playing like he's been overdosing on adrenaline in his off time.

 

60... No sooner had Rooney got his first touch than a Trinidadian went for his shins.

64... Don't be fooled by England's 16 attempts on goal in this match (compared with Trinidad's 5); barely 4 of those attempts were threatening.

65... England throw-in deep in the TT half. Nothing to report out of it. England maintains possession; the TNT half has been all white, England's half is giving the grass a chance to grow, but that hasn't converted into actual English attacks.

68... Trinidad pushed a ball too far into England's half, squandering a good chance.

69... Peter Crouch just took another cross into the box. Guess what happened? Doesn't need to be said. Another squandered shame by crouch.

My wife is musing about who, had she the opportunity, she would do on the English team (that's where the quality of this game has left us with). Beckham? "I'd feel like I was experimenting with bisexuality."

72... Terrific attack by TNT, blocked by a body blow at the edge oif England's box, terrific counter-run by Rooney, broken up by a good tackle. Lampard, a kick high abovfe goal froman imaginative pass by Lennon. and on we go.

75... Cornell Glenn of TNT just gave us a fantastic display of invidivual brilliance on the way to goal, passing to himself as if he was a team of three, and finally stopped by a double-teaming England (and no help from Trinidadians).

77... Lampard just tok a square shot on goal from a well-executed double-pass inside the box, but the Great Hislop was right there. And Lampard again, a minute later, shot wide.

There's better glue in England's attacking line, there's the smell of a leathery goal in the air, but not quite yet on England's boot.

82...... GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL ENGLAND PETER CROUCH

Loong, long Beckham cross diagonally from 35 yards out, Crouch at the far post, mounting above a Trinidad player like Czech's Koler, and bam, heads it into the net for the 1-0 lead. England forgives all.

90 gerard gooooooooooooooal england! A LEFT-FOOTER HIGH IN THE LEFT CORNER OF HISLOP'S GOAL, and Gerard has given England a bit more to cheer about. Trinidad just had a goal disallowed, off side.

So there it was, you could smell it in the air, the goals were primed and ready; they just hadn't found their man. But this is still not the England we were promised, not the England that can face down a side even marginally stronger than lowly Trinidad & Tobago. For this world cup "favorite" to play so desperately against a team that normally could barely keep its head above the Atlantic says little about England's quality, and plenty about its doubtful future. Rooney all you want: the team as a whole, these last few minutes aside, is playing as if on crutches. Maybe this'll give them reason to live up to their promise. I don't think they will.

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