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Harsh reality of highest level hits home in disappointing draw

By Sulmaan Ahmad | Chief editor

As sure as a Spanish pass is crisp and a German penalty is unstoppable, an English goalkeeper has gone from the world class of Banks, Shilton, Clemence and Seaman to being the butter-fingered laughing stock of international football.

On the part of all the detractors, it is without doubt an exaggeration, but one that has been given all the credence in the world after Rob Green conspired to spill a straight and relatively slow Clint Dempsey shot into his own net.

Reactions in and around the stadium in Rustenburg were a mixture of uncontrollable laughter and absolute shock. Shock in the sense that everybody expected it, but not that it would be quite this bad.

It's up there as perhaps the worst ever goalkeeper blunder in England's tournament history. There is certainly no need to exaggerate the incident, but there is no hiding from the truth. Not when Capello is in charge.

The keeper debate has been the most prominent in the entire build-up to the World Cup and Green seemed the happy-medium for Fabio Capello, who had a touch of the Goldilocks about him in not wanting to go with the too old David James or too young Joe Hart. Without doubt, form favours Hart and experience - particularly ability to recover from setbacks - favours James. Perhaps the veteran being given the No.1 should have been followed through with on the pitch, after all.

Chief among Capello's problems now is what to do with Green. The West Ham man made a good recovery during the game and could quite conceivably have a good tournament from here on. But when removing all traces of sympathy from the decision-making process, logic would certainly dictate that there is much less risk for the team in making a change for Algeria on Friday, even if that comes at the unfortunate and even unfair expense of the shattered confidence of a squad member.

Don't forget...

Capello's gambles on injury-risks James Milner (virus) and Ledley King (though his groin injury is new, and not an aggravation of his chronic knee problems) backfired as early as the first half. With Rio Ferdinand having already been ruled out, the coach needs a few more rocks upon whom he can rely to lead the team into the knockout rounds.

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard alongside each other in midfield are barely even a talking point, which can only be a good thing. It may not be the best pairing to truly dominate a game, but the dynamism made England fast-moving from back to front for 90 minutes. Captaincy really galvanises Gerrard, who was perhaps England's best player of the night.

Emile Heskey may have missed a good chance but he also was at the centre of most of England's best attacking play. Capello has no illusions about what he has at his disposal and is playing to the strengths of the team. Not even Messi, Tevez, Higuain and Di Maria exactly lit up proceedings earlier in the day against Nigeria. Hopefully the Heskey debate is a dead one for now.

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