The United States' 1-1 draw against England on Saturday elated American World Cup watchers. (England was favored to win.) Across the pond, however, the flubbed goal that tied the game is being replayed over and over, and the fate of the unhappy English goalkeeper Robert Green debated ad nauseum. A player in primary school, so it is said, would not have fumbled that ball so disastrously.
Is Green's status as a national scapegoat a done deal? Will the English coach find a different starting keeper for the next game? These pressing questions are consuming the energies of every Englishman, from the mayor of London to sports psychologists.
- Ah, the Weltschmerz That's the word London mayor Boris Johnson uses to describe his Sunday emotional hangover in The Guardian. "What did you feel when the poor English goalie let that one through? What was the sensation that filled your brain, just after you leapt from the sofa with an incredulous oath or a noise like a cat being strangled or a man with an ingrown toenail being trod on by his neighbour on the Tube? What was the thought that followed the yelp?" Though he, like many, harps on the repeated World Cup disappointments of the English team--"we'd been shown up by a bunch of yee-haw amateurs"--he thinks there's a case for hope yet: "that ball was travelling faster than you think, and it was bouncing in a disconcerting way ... Robert Green recovered to make a fine save and, when you review the whole game in your mind, you can see there were long passages when England were totally brilliant."
- This Always Happens to Us "One of the masochistic pleasures of watching England," writes the Financial Times' Gideon Rachman, "is the sheer familiarity of the narrative. We build the team up, we convince ourselves that this time we've got a real chance, the team get off to a decent start and then it all falls apart. It's like having a recurring nightmare." He's one of several blaming English ill-luck and clumsiness as a whole, rather than Robert Green specifically.
- Goalkeeping as Explained by Albert Camus Alex Massie at The Daily Beast opens with a quote from the existentialist Camus saying that his knowledge of "morality and obligations" comes from soccer. "Camus was a goalkeeper himself and knew a thing or two about the existential anguish that is the goalie's lot in life and football. As the last line of defense, the goalkeeper is also first in the firing line when blame and retribution are meted out." Massie says Green's "name, and his misfortune, will be remembered for years to come," but that he hardly destroyed English chances on his own: "The truth of the matter is that England, for all its ballyhooed history, is a minor traditional power." He also points out that "English goalkeeping has, in any case, been a victim of globalization." The top teams in the English Premier League have non-native goalies.
- 'Both Symbolic and Symptomatic' Andrew Anthony The Guardian seems to agree that the blame lies not with Green, but with the larger system. "Green was only [on the World Cup roster] because he was preferred to David James, whose nickname, let's recall, is Calamity." That said, Anthony isn't necessarily advocating sticking with the unfortunate Green. He wonders if the English team coach, faced with "limited options," might sub in "23-year-old Joe Hart. Seldom has a team – the oldest in the competition – looked more in need of the arrogance of youth."
- Sports Psychology: Green Will Recover, Should Get Second Chance, argues performance psychologist Roberto Forzoni in The Guardian. The job of the goalkeeper is to recover from horrible moments like this.
[T]he mistake was highly uncharacteristic ... Green will recover and move on. Having worked with him over a couple of difficult seasons at West Ham, I know. He has the character, temperament and work ethic that will help him endure a difficult time. Should he be selected to start as the No 1 choice, I believe he will demonstrate why he is a top-flight keeper. But he needs the opportunity, and it's one that he may not get, due to the nature of the World Cup competition.
- Standing by Green The Telegraph plants its flag in Green's camp, saying he "has shown dignity in humiliation." English player Frank Lampard "has dismissed the incident as a 'freak'. We hope that other England players will show similar generosity and line up behind Green--if only to stop any more goals getting through."
- Give the U.S. Some Credit! "Green will be depicted as the man that deprived England of a victory," predicts Max Bergmann in The Huffington Post (he turned out to be right). But "while Green makes an easy scapegoat, and should be criticized for the error, the United States was not gifted a draw. No, they earned it."