True horror of history is narrowly avoided

When Joe Gaetjens deflected the most famous goal ever scored by an American, Alf Ramsey, who was England's right back in Belo Horizonte, would always recall the look of horror on the face of Bert Williams as the leather ball slid through his fingers.

The then England manager, Walter Winterbottom, always regretted that what came to be called "The Miracle on Grass" was never filmed. He reasoned that footage would have demonstrated his side's absolute dominance, which was somehow kept at bay by the heroics of the American keeper, Frank Borghi, whose day job in 1950 was driving hearses in St Louis.

When Robert Green allowed the Jabulani ball to slither through his gloves, the West Ham goalkeeper would have wanted to be buried as completely as Borghi's customers.

In contrast to Williams' error, his would be beamed around the world by satellite and replayed on every DVD of goalkeeping bloopers for decades to come. The pain he suffered may not have been as sharp as that felt by Tim Howard when the toe of Emile Heskey's boots drove into his forearm but it will linger for much longer.

His career will now depend on how he reacts to the disaster of Rustenburg, like Belo Horizonte a town whose fortune was built on mining. Alan Rough, who allowed an equally soft shot through his legs in a 1-1 draw against Iran in the 1978 tournament, never recovered his reputation.

Fabio Capello must hope that Green is not similarly tarnished. As someone who began his career as a teenager by keeping a clean sheet in Norwich's bitter East Anglian derby with Ipswich, he has had to deal early with pressure.

The England footballers in Belo Horizonte thought the little ground resembled a prison yard. In a sense the Royal Bafokeng will be that for Green. He would be grateful that Jozy Altidore's pace midway through the second half gave him an opportunity to show his true ability, although he required the assistance of the post.

However unfortunate his error, it highlighted the one glaringly obvious weakness in Capello's new model England, the lack of a world-class keeper. Throughout England's ponderous preparations for South Africa, Capello, who showed his ability to make quick, ruthless decisions by removing the overstretched James Milner after half an hour, has never appeared clear about who his first choice is.

It may not have helped the manager that David James has "Calamity" for a nickname but he has a reputation for individual brilliance without which Portsmouth would have got nowhere near an FA Cup final.

What is sometimes forgotten when the disasters of 1950 are recalled is that England were without their first-choice central defensive pairing. Billy Wright may have captained the side but his regular partner, Stoke's Neil Franklin, did not travel to Brazil.

Irritated beyond measure by the maximum wage and complaining that the bandsmen at Wembley were paid more than the players, he had fled to Colombia in search of serious money he never really received.

By the time the final whistle went at the Royal Bafokeng, England were on their third choice of centre-halves, John Terry and Jamie Carragher, defenders with plenty of ability and guts but not overburdened with pace.

Both Capello and the USA coach, Bob Bradley, who had asked war veterans to address his players on the virtues of team spirit, had central defenders who had spent much of the season injured. Oguchi Onyewu had only played one match in nine months while Ledley King's knees had had to be nursed through a season at White Hart Lane.

It says something for England's misfortune that the Tottenham captain did not last the night. On the other hand Onyewu, who once had a trial for Newcastle, delivered a heroic performance.

England returned from Belo Horizonte to their hotel on the Copacabana beach a broken team, with not even the return of Stanley Matthews and Jackie Milburn able to prevent elimination by Spain. England were merely dented in Rustenburg but the doubts remain.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?