Football: Malaise still lingers

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The Independent Online
From NORMAN FOX in Detroit

England. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Germany. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

ENGLAND'S US CUP experience ended with a spirited performance against the winners of the competition and world champions in the stifling Silverdome here last night. Bearing in mind all that had gone before, spirit was probably the thing most people wanted to see, but the fact remains that England have played six matches without a win and their fundamental malaise is not over.

Graham Taylor's logic for exposing England to the power of the Germans with a three-man defence was based on the theory that next year in the World Cup finals that will be the style to play. Surely a case of choosing the curtains before the house is built.

Yesterday he again played roulette with his own future, for although the draw with Brazil had eased the crisis, there was no hiding from the damage the defeats by the United States in Foxborough and Norway in Oslo had inflicted on England's reputation.

As Taylor said before yesterday's game: 'Who wants to be a manager of a team that plays so abjectly as we did against Norway - but I am.'

The US Cup has added confirmation that Des Walker must be on the verge of being abandoned for the World Cup match against Poland later this year. Gary Pallister is challenging hard, and Chris Woods has lost his position as the automatic choice in goal.

So, with the possibility that Paul Gascoigne has also lost his way, the idea of achieving continuity seems to have foundered. Yesterday's team again looked unfamiliar, thrown into an historic day when for the first time an international match was played indoors, to sink or swim in the drenching humidity.

The Germans, with four of their World Cup winning team, sensibly stroked the ball economically about the narrow pitch, while England's familiar habit of losing possession immediately forced them to do the chasing, and led to Karlheinz Riedle and Stefan Effenberg being offered plenty of opportunities to expose confusion at the back.

Having John Barnes and Paul Merson as the only strikers put David Platt under more pressure to maintain his scoring record from midfield. He alone had the drive and pace to trouble the rugged German defence, and only he had the initiative to offer England their single positive opening of the first half-hour, breaking clear and only being deprived of his header by a combination of defenders.

Platt's influence became increasingly important but Effenberg was a constant threat to England on their left side. Had Platt not headed beyond the far post from Lee Sharpe, the German threat might have been subdued, but as it was after 26 minutes Thomas Helmer slipped a midfield pass cleverly inside to Lothar Matthaus, who chipped a superb pass to the unmarked Effenberg, who silkily veered inside Pallister to side-foot the goal that had been threatening.

England's unimpressive defending seemed about to herald a collapse when suddenly Merson, ignored by England before, slammed a ferocious drive towards the far side of Bodo Illgner's goal.

The goalkeeper ably diverted the shot but England quickly came back. Barnes and Paul Ince interchanged passes delightfully as they moved into the German area, and finally space was made for Platt to pull away from the occupied defenders and clip in the equaliser.

Once Matthaus's influence in midfield had waned, England were able to think in terms of victory. Barnes enjoyed the slow pace and began to bring Merson and Platt more and more into dangerous situations. But the power of Klinsmann and dexterity of Riedle still posed enormous problems. When, after 53 minutes, Barnes squared a hopeful pass, Klinsmann hungrily took control. Pallister lunged and paid the price: Klinsmann escaped and Pallister suffered a match-ending sprained ankle. Christian Ziege took up the attack and drew out Martyn but his shot hit the post, only to rebound to Klinsmann, and again England were looking at defeat.

The gulf between the control and strength of the German attack and the frailty of the England defence always presented a deterrent to being over-enthusiastic about England's admirable spirit. Towards the end the Germans were peppering the goal with shots, and Taylor's record of six defeats this year will probably revive the calls for his dismissal later this summer. Afterwards he confidently remarked, 'This won't be my last game.' He also said that had Matthaus played for England they would have won. If he believed that, the heat must have got to him.

ENGLAND: N Martyn (Crystal Palace); E Barrett (Aston Villa), G Pallister (Manchester United), D Walker (Sampdoria), A Sinton (Queen's Park Rangers), D Platt (Juventus), N Clough (Liverpool), P Ince (Manchester United), L Sharpe (Manchester United), P Merson (Arsenal), J Barnes (Liverpool). Substitutes: N Winterburn (Arsenal) for Sharpe, h-t; M Keown (Arsenal) for Pallister, 53 min; I Wright (Arsenal) for Clough, 70 min. Manager: G Taylor.

GERMANY: B Illgner (1FC Cologne); G Buchwald (VfB Stuttgart), T Helmer (Bayern Munich), M Schulz (Borussia Dortmund), S Effenberg (Fiorentina), T Strunz (VfB Stuttgart), L Matthaus (Bayern Munich), A Moller (Juventus), C Ziege (Bayern Munich), K Riedle (Lazio), J Klinsmann (Monaco). Substitutes: M Sammer (Borussia Dortmund) for Moller, 63 min, M Zorc (Borussia Dortmund) for Effenberg, 77 min. Coach: B Vogts.

Referee: E Cavani (Uruguay).

Goals: Effenberg (0-1, 26 min); Platt (1-1, 30 min); Klinsmann (1-2, 53 min).

Photograph, page 27

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