James waits in wings as Capello ponders options

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Robert Green's private agonies were not spared in the deeper recesses of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium late on Saturday night. The plasma television screens that the players proceeded past out of the ground had a video of past World Cup goalkeeping bloopers on a loop. Green was spared an excruciating moment because the images, like the ball, eluded him, though the huge performance he put in after the match – he sought no excuses in his apology to the nation – suggests that he would have taken that footage on the chin.

Tim Howard, whose commanding performance will have made Green's error all the more unbearable to take, probably found the best advice for him when asked how might Green get over the 40th-minute error which will always live with him. "A lot of alcohol," Howard said. "There is nothing that dulls that pain. All you can do is spend time on the training ground and put in a string of good performances. It is horrible. It sucks. I don't know if there is a psychological effort."

John Terry's account of the scene in England's dressing room at half-time suggests that Fabio Capello did not indulge Green in any way and that his response to the error did not include an arm around the shoulder.

"The manager came in and spoke, saying, 'Forget it'," Terry said. "'Pick yourself up, forget it, it's been and gone.' Then the manager left the room."

It was left to the players to pick up the confidence of a shattered individual as best they could. Frank Lampard was one of the first to motion "chin up" to him. "Green was mortified and the lads were saying at half-time that the only way he could repay us was to make important saves," Terry said. "He did that in the second half."

Capello's review of the DVD of the game may persuade him that the save in question – from Jozy Altidore – was not quite as assured as it seemed on first viewing. The striker, who could have put England in serious trouble had he crossed to Clint Dempsey, instead fired straight at Green, who gloved the ball on the post when he might have palmed it around the corner into safety. But in Green's defence was the testimony of several players close to the ball when Dempsey beat Steve Gerrard to fire the fateful shot, who claimed that the adidas Jabulani ball deviated as it has done in training."When I hit the shot I knew it was going on target and at the last second it moved a little bit," Dempsey admitted. "I saw him reaching but I saw it go over the line." The consensus of the US team seemed to be that Dempsey was right. "Coming into the tournament, I knew there was going to be some crazy goals with the ball and I didn't want to be a part of any of them," Howard said. Lampard, too, agreed that "the ball moved about a bit" after Dempsey released his strike.

Capello is undecided about whether Green should be given another start in Cape Town against Algeria on Friday. Though leaving him out would be a vote of no confidence, which effectively means Green's participation in the tournament is over, he may also take into consideration that the player's last competitive match for him was in Ukraine, when he became the first England goalkeeper to be sent off and David James was needed on to replace him, in the 1-0 defeat in Dnipropetrovsk. But there appears to be something Capello is not happy about regarding James' preparations for this tournament.

James certainly looked bemused about Capello's decision to leave him out as he left the stadium late on Saturday. He rejected the England management's suggestions he is injured and asked if he felt he was the England No 1, he joked that, "I am the number one but I just didn't play" – an allusion to his squad number. "I am fit and well," James added.

James's interpretation of how Green could recover from this was a little less realistic than Howard's. Asked how long it would take, he said: "Two minutes. It should do. Things happen, but he's made a great save, he's back on blob. We'll do our warm-down, chat tomorrow. The spirit is fine." In his heart, Green will beg to differ.

The Enemy Within: Rival fans around Britain give their views... Donald Maynard, 47, US embassy worker in London, originally from Virginia

How could I not enjoy that? We played really well and had chances to win after Clint Dempsey's goal. We watched the match at home with friends and I was already a bit hoarse by the time our goal went in. The only English persons present were my immediate family – both my children are dual nationality and my wife is English.

Being a West Ham fan, I can't be too harsh on Rob Green. Tim Howard (above) was so good in goal, stopping six or seven shots, and he is still probably picking Emile Heskey's studs out of his chest! He was unlucky to be exposed for Steven Gerrard's goal – when you're faced with a world class player eight yards out like that the odds are on the attacker.

We could have kept pushing but after about an hour Bob Bradley decided a point was enough and we started packing people back. England came into the match in the last 20 minutes and if the game went on for five more minutes they would have won. All the Americans who play in the Premier League will take a lot of personal pride, but I thought Oguchi Onyewu did superbly in his first 90 minutes since October, coming under a lot of pressure although he tired towards the end.