06.27.10

England's Misery

The abysmal call discounting Lampard's goal was a disappointing reversal of the 1966 final—and England didn't get its happy ending. Sir Harold Evans on today's England-Germany match.

What a cheat! In the worst refereeing decision of the tournament, the ref in the England-Germany game didn’t see the first half goal Lampard clearly scored to give England the 2-2 equalizer. It would have been a morale booster just before halftime. I guess the earth shook in England. Certainly the crowd howled and rightly. A video replay showed Lampard’s shot clearly going at least a yard in the German goal. That’s a big question from this tournament. Should the game pause while the ref look at the video? Would technology have given the U.S. the disallowed goal by Edu (or would it have caught Dempsey’s shove in the back right in front of the ref?).

Still, England’s fans packing the stadium have to concede, in their misery, that the young German side was better, faster, smoother than the old, experienced English side. People outside “this sceptered isle” have no concept of the fever football arouses in England (and Ireland, Wales and Scotland for that matter). The English claim to have invented the game, their Premier League is outstanding, but every defeat at the feet of the Germans carries a cruel sting. The viewers in England must have ground their teeth to see a few of the Germans dressed in the Kaiser’s World War I helmets.

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Watch England's Discounted Goal

The English might seek consolation of sorts in reliving 1966. Today’s game was 1966 in reverse. Then Germany went ahead in the 13th minute. The fabulous England keeper Gordon Banks untypically gave the Germans a gift, heading the ball onto the welcoming boot of Haller.

Within six minutes, England made it 1-1 from a free kick. There were only 12.5 minutes left in the whole match when Martin Peters set the flags of St. George waving in the stands. He received a superb pass from tiny Alan Ball, the man of the match, and with his right foot thumped it into goal for a 2-1 lead. That should have been it. England then had the advantage in a match of wonderful technical skill and spirit.

In the very last minute there was an outrage like today. From a free kick, Germany’s Haller blatantly and undeniably patted the ball down. While England waited for the whistle, Weber took Haller’s handball and put in the England net. Herr Dienst, the Swiss ref, ignored the foul. Instead of penalizing Haller he let the goal stand, to the bewildered fury of all England. And so on to extra time.

Full coverage of the World CupIn the 100th minute Geoff Hurst scored for England. My office exploded in cheers. The ball hit the crossbar and bounced down over the line. Or did it? Was it a Lampard moment from the future? For an agonizing minute or two, the ref didn’t seem to know. He trotted over to the Russian linesman. The linesman gestured vaguely. Hearts stopped. Was Dienst about to foul up again?

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Watch Germany's second goal early in the first half.

And then he pointed to the center. It was 3-2 England. But the triumph did not end there, just as Germany’s didn’t end at 2-2 today. In the very last seconds, Hurst burst through a petrified exhausted German defense—the crumbling white wall—and made it 4-2 for England and the cup.

All England stopped today as it did July 30, 1966 when England beat Germany. I’d been at Wembley for the tough games leading there, but on this day of driving rain alternating with dazzling sunshine I was inside editing our coverage. My heart stopped a dozen times. As our star correspondent Brian Glanville noted, the match was changeable as the weather that Saturday. It ran to the 2-2 extra time, the first World Cup extra-time battle since 1934 when Italy beat Czechoslovakia in Rome. The sun smiled on the English team, as it did not in America's frantic minutes against Ghana—and in today’s game.

The English attack almost carried the day, the English defense was lamentable, outpaced at the back. England’s goals in 1966 are still argued in Germany. For the English, today’s defeat will live in memory less for Germany’s undoubted skill than for Lampard’s ball crossing the line in front of a blind ref.

I’d pick the Germany of today as a likely winner of the cup.

Harold Evans, author of two histories of America, just published his memoir, My Paper Chase. Editor at large of The Week, he was editor of The Sunday Times from 1967-81 and The Times from 1981-82, founding editor of Condé Nast Traveler, and president of Random House Trade Group from 1990-97.