A terrible mistake from England’s Robert Green gave USA a share of the spoils in Group C’s opening match played in front of a passionate crowd in Rustenburg. The goalkeeper, given the nod by Fabio Capello to start the match ahead of David James and Joe Hart, allowed Clint Dempsey’s 25-yard drive to slip through his grasp, giving last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup finalists a deserved share of the spoils.
The game had begun so well for England, who enjoyed an ideal start to their FIFA World Cup™ campaign, taking the lead with just four minutes on the clock. Frank Lampard found Emile Heskey who played a perfectly-weighted ball to Steven Gerrard and the skipper made no mistake with an intelligent finish past Man of the Match Tim Howard with the outside of his right foot.
From then on, however, USA gradually got more of the ball and a grip of the game. They fired their first real warning when Landon Donovan’s teasing cross from the right was headed wide by Jozy Altidore. Oguchi Onyewu also glanced wide a header, again from a Donovan set-piece, and the LA Galaxy man himself tested Green with a curling 25-yard effort which swerved just wide of the upright.
If USA seemed not to be enjoying any luck, they got their deserved equaliser in fortunate fashion five minutes before the break. Dempsey’s shot appeared to be straightforward enough to handle, but Green’s failed attempt to claim the ball drew them level. It was a horrible mistake by the England goalkeeper – one which he immediately acknowledged - but one which England ultimately failed to recover from.
The Three Lions upped the tempo in the second half and Emile Heskey spurned a good chance to put them ahead – firing straight at the keeper after being put clean through by Aaron Lennon. Lampard stung the palms of Howard with a long-range effort and Glen Johnson also snatched a shot when well placed. Green went some way to atone for his earlier error when he pushed Altidore’s shot onto the post after the pacy striker had powered past substitute Jamie Carragher down the left.
As the half wore on, Wayne Rooney began to find more space and consequently his influence on the game increased. First he headed over from a Gerrard cross and then a quickly-taken free-kick almost caught Howard out, but the ball flashed wide of the far post. The No10 also set up Shaun Wright-Phillips in a fantastic position, but his shot lacked conviction and Howard was able to make a comfortable save.
With the clock ticking down, both managers introduced striking substitutes in the hope of a late winner, but a winning goal failed to come. With such a fearsome rivalry between the sides, there was a feeling of anti-climax at the final whistle, but there is still plenty to play for at the FIFA World Cup.