Crumbs of comfort will have been in short supply for Robert Green the morning after the night before. However, if there is one thing for which the under-fire keeper can be grateful, it is that he is not in England to read the Sunday newspapers. Coverage of Green's slip has been predictably merciless, with journalists and former players alike lampooning the West Ham United No1. Two competing titles, the News of the World and Sunday Mirror, even opted for the same, cruel lead headline "Hand of Clod".
In stirring memories of another infamous and costly FIFA World Cup™ goal for the Three Lions, these tabloids tapped into early concerns about England's prospects in South Africa. The Mirror's match report even reflected gloomily that, just as the 1966 triumph was inspired by West Ham heroes Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst, another Hammer might just have ended their 2010 dreams. "It was said when England won the World Cup that it was a triumph forged at West Ham," the Mirror's correspondent wrote. "After events in the Royal Bafokeng Stadium last night it can only be hoped that another member of the Upton Park fraternity hasn't dropped the trophy the nation has craved ever since."
The Sunday Times reflected that while Green had "imploded", England's failings against USA did not begin and end with their goalkeeper. "The myth that England are among the favourites for these finals appeared to explode,” wrote their man in Rustenburg. The Observer too acknowledged a wider problem, commenting: "The American goal may have been a fluke, yet it came about because England were defending too deep and allowing their opponents to take pot shots."
"Time for Fabio Capello to earn his keep" was the challenge laid down by the Sunday Express, who acknowledged that, regardless of Green's role in the Americans' equaliser, Bob Bradley's side had been worthy of a draw. England were described as having been "outshone by the opposition, and very often outplayed", while Capello himself did not escape censure. "His big selection for last night's encounter went horribly wrong" was the Express's verdict.
Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce, writing in the News of the World, added to this criticism, claiming that it was clear Capello "didn't have a clue" which of his three goalkeepers to select. Nonetheless, Green remained the main focus of England's ire, with former captain Terry Butcher writing in the Mirror that the blunder was "the worst I've ever seen by an England keeper". Green could not even count on backing from the traditionally supportive goalkeepers' union, with former Arsenal No1 Bob Wilson telling the Sunday Telegraph: "There are no excuses... It was awful, a basic schoolboy goalkeeping error."
Green fared little better across the Atlantic, where an American media generally oblivious to world football offered generous coverage to this dramatic contest. Chat shows and morning programmes on Sunday all carried footage of Clint Dempsey's bizarre equaliser, while dedicated FIFA World Cup sections took up prominent positions in most US newspapers.
The broadsheet New York Times took a predictably analytical approach. Their man on the scene trotted out the well-worn theory about Americans being mistrustful of games played without the hands, which some believe is responsible for the long procession of impressive US keepers. "In Showdown, Sure Hands and Shaky Ones" ran a headline that contrasted Green's performance with that of the flawless Tim Howard.
On the opposite coast, 2,500 miles away in Los Angeles, the LA Times led with "US recovers on England's fumble", a not-so-delicate reference to the country’s most popular sport – the other football, gridiron. But not all the media coverage centred on Green. The Washington Post ran a story on its homepage about fans massing in Dupont Circle to watch the action from South Africa, while the Boston Globe ran a feature about a married couple – one English, one American – who felt compelled to view the game separately, "for the sake of their marriage".
For this couple, a draw was perhaps their best chance of maintaining an uneasy peace. For Green and England, the result has merely exacerbated an already volatile relationship with their national press.