By Adam Vaccaro
What happened Sunday: It was thought that if England could control the midfield, they'd be able to beat Germany. As it turned out, they didn't even get the chance to do so. The young German squad's dangerous counterattack was on full display Sunday. Three of Die Mannschaft's four goals came on sudden trips from one third to the other, where their attack was able to take advantage of a seemingly shell shocked English back line.
Miro Klose started the scoring in the 20th minute after receiving a long punt from keeper Manuel Neuer, as he easily skirted past former England captain John Terry and finished strong to score. Lukas Podolski would add his second goal of the tournament before England took one back, but two quick second half strikes from Thomas Muller put things out of reach for the Three Lions. The 4-1 final marked the worst defeat in England's World Cup history.
English fans will harp on the day's first instance of poor refereeing. With the score 2-1, a Frank Lampard bid was not deemed a goal after crashing off the crossbar and clearly landing over the goal line before bouncing back into play.
Yes, the decision to play on was awful. Yes, the non-call underscored that sometimes things just happen too fast on the field for the human eye to make correct judgment. Yes, it's stupid to continue to deny officials the assistance of technology, especially after seeing every other sport that's adopted replay benefit from its inclusion. And yes, the game may have seen a different result had England gone into the half locked in a 2-2 tie.
But that's not really the story to this match. Germany's quick counterattack and the Three Lions' slow defense are the primary reasons that England is disappointed once more by a premature elimination.
Also Sunday: In a 2006 Round of 16 rematch, Argentina similarly outclassed Mexico 3-1 in a match mired by questionable officiating. There's little doubt that Argentina was the better team, and they surely deserved the win. The first of Carlos Tevez's two scores, however, was very lucky to have stood up. Tevez got his head on a chip from Lionel Messi (again held scoreless, but still a force on the field) to collect the goal and put Argentina ahead 1-0. The problem was that he was undeniably at least two yards offsides. The officials met to discuss the play but the goal stood.
Mexico's confidence was wrecked, but it likely didn't matter. Argentina has given the tournament's most consistent quality performances and likely would have controlled the game the rest of the way regardless. Still, the poor officiating is really starting to pile up and will claim an unfortunate but rightful chunk of discussion as the tournament whittles itself down to the world's most elite teams.
What it all means: Argentina and Germany's quarterfinal match will be a fantastic battle between two soccer superpowers. Before the tournament, the Germans said that their goal was to reach the quarters with their young rebuilding squad. Today's showing makes you wonder if they might have a bit more in them than that relatively modest goal. It also instills a fear in the rest of world soccer; if this is a German rebuilding effort, just think of what Die Mannschaft will look like in 2014.
Argentina has now won all four of its contests and it's starting to look like Albiceleste just may be the team to beat in South Africa. They haven't seen anyone close to Germany's quality yet, though, so we probably shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves before seeing Saturday's match.
This was supposed to be the year that England became mighty once more. Instead, the Three Lions have once again broken their country's heart. Coach Fabio Capello is unlikely to return to manage the squad after what will go down as a failed World Cup bid, though he claims he has no intention of resigning. Perhaps there's a problem at the structural level with English soccer. Continually assembling a collection of high-paid superstars just hasn't yielded a winning team. It will be interesting to watch just how Three Lions' roster develops in the buildup to 2014.
Mexico remains in soccer purgatory, eliminated in the Round of 16 for the sixth straight World Cup.
What to watch on Monday: Brazil returns to action against Chile and will have Kaka and Elano, forced out of action against Portugal, and Robinho, who was rested for the match, back on the field. Chile impressed in the group stage by beating Switzerland and Honduras and giving Spain quality competition in a 2-1 effort losing. La Roja's attacking play, electrifying a country devastated by an earthquake earlier this year, has won over a lot of support, but Brazil is the world's number one team for a reason and is a tough draw for the upstarts in the first round of knockout play. They at least likely won't be made to look silly.
Also Monday: The Netherlands' carnival-like support will be out in full force for what is probably the second round's biggest mismatch. The Dutch, who along with Argentina are the only team to win all three of their group matches, will have the momentum and an advantage in crowd support against Slovakia. The fun-loving fans deserve to see its team go deep in the tournament, and they may yet get that opportunity this time around. The Oranje should at least make it to the quarters, beating a Slovakia team that made the Round of 16 with more thanks to Italy's failed campaign that to their own abilities. It's been a spirited run for Slovakia in its first World Cup as an independent nation, but it's hard to envision it lasting much longer.
Question of the Day: Will Sunday's two instances of horrible refereeing expedite FIFA's willingness to incorporate technology into the way it officiates games? The technophobia on display by one of the world's top sporting organizations is flat-out embarrassing in the year 2010. By and large, this World Cup has been very well officiated but that's been easily overshadowed by a few poor calls and non-calls. There's no reason not to institute a simple replay system that will ultimately help the officials' and by extension FIFA's credibility. It's time for FIFA to get with the rest of the world and fix this very fixable problem.
Full schedule (all times EDT): Netherlands v Slovakia Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban 10:00 a.m.; Brazil v Chile Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg 2:30 p.m.
Quote of Note: With two such huge decisions being proved to be incorrect within such a short space of time and costing both England and Mexico dear, the pressure will be on FIFA to take some action. - A spokesman for British bookmaking firm William Hull, suggesting that the odds that video replay will be included in the 2014 World Cup increased significantly on Sunday.