Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Sunday August 5 2012
It was business as usual for a national team in a major international competition at the Millenium Stadium last night.
Back in London, the effort and determination of the nation`s teams and individuals were producing medals-a-plenty but on the banks of the River Taff the kind of tame and lame display which besets our national football teams was once again taking shape.
The opposition? No not Germany, not Brazil, Spain, Italy or France. It was South Korea. Football is not exactly the national game in that part of the world, but upon last night`s experience you would have thought it wasn`t the national game on these shores either.
The match was played with the Cardiff roof closed and the Stadium an overgrown aircraft hangar with a huge viewing gallery. The people turned out in their thousands intent on seeing the team find it`s way to the semi-finals and a re-match with Brazil.
South Korea were first to show, first to the ball, robust in the tackle and moved the ball around the field quickly leaving Wednesday`s heroes, Allen and Cleverley chasing shadows. They more or less dominated play for the first half hour when they were duly rewarded when Ji Dong Won rifled a shot inside the far post which I think Butland should have saved. It was as if the shot was in real time but the goalkeeping effort in slowmo. Has Ji Dong Won kicked a ball in the premier league since he helped re-ignite last season`s title race with his last minute effort against Manchester City on New Year`s Day?
Team GB had not showed much. Pace was replaced with caution and none of the midfield creators really got on the ball. Ramsay looked less than pedestrian. He has had his plaudits over this tournament but I am not one of them.
Devoid of any serious creativity it was perhaps a little surprising that the team found itself in a position to claim a penalty when a shot by full back Bertrand was handled on the ground by Korean substitute Oh Jaesuk. Up stepped a rather frightened looking Ramsay appearing as though he had been caught in the headlights. He nervously stood through the gamesmanship antics and unconvincingly struck the ball underneath the diving keeper and into the net to equalise for Team GB.
Four minutes later you could have been forgiven for thinking that incentives had been offered to the Colombian referee as Sturridge , for once looking something like lively, took Hwang`s outstretched leg and again in slowmo tumbled to the grass.
Once again up stepped a rather bewildered and unconvincing Ramsay. He changed direction this time, the keeper guessed right and the ball was kept out. And that proved to be the prelude for Team GB`s fortunes last night.
Team GB`s ideas didn`t run out last night. They played as if they didn`t have any. Easily held at bay by a young team the individuals of which play their football mainly in the poorer Associations of Europe and Asia, the premier league professionals just didn`t look the ticket.
The back line looked solid enough as did Butland once he had let in probably Korea`s only serious shot of the first half, but the engine room was missing one vital ingredient…an engine!
Up top Sturridge gave us practically nothing, Bellamy was all graft and no craft and was replaced by Giggs, who for some inexplicable reason didn`t make the starting eleven. But why replace your most potent footballer with extra-time beckoning? Did Stuart Pearce really think that a performance like that would produce the need to save Bellamy for a date with Brazil?
Giggs did try to get the midfield moving, but Team GB weren`t exactly getting a free run at the ball and extra-time didn`t produce anything of note as the game, a quarter final, headed for the inevital ending…penalties.
At 4-4 neither keeper had had a sniff, so up stepped a premier league striker to put real pressure on South Korea. Except that the replacement keeper made a very good save and "left-footer syndrome" had struck again. Yes Giggs did score his, but it is amazing how many times an international team from these shores comes up empty when a vital penalty shoot- out kick from a left-footed footballer fails to find the back of the net!
So it was another case of draw-extra time-penalties-out.
And with this team we can`t even go back to the drawing board, because it may never represent these shores again.
Date:Sunday August 5 2012
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