Green's Fumble in 1-1 Tie Has England's Coach Pondering Goalkeeping Switch

Robert Green’s unsteady hands are making his future as England’s goalkeeper uncertain.

The 30-year-old fumbled Clint Dempsey’s shot into England’s goal, allowing the Americans to tie yesterday’s World Cup Group C match 1-1. Coach Fabio Capello had only told Green two hours before the match that he would be the starter in Rustenburg, South Africa.

Capello has experimented with goalkeepers, rotating between Green, Joe Hart and former starter David James in warm-up matches for the tournament. The manager said the West Ham goalkeeper’s mistake last night is forcing him to reconsider his choice.

“We have time to speak with him,” Capello told reporters after the game. “After that, I will decide.”

Green conceded four goals in the Premier League through errors last season, more than any other goalkeeper in England’s top division, according to data collector Opta Index.

England captain Steven Gerrard put his team ahead in the fourth minute, toeing the ball past the U.S.’s Tim Howard, and his team threatened further goals before Dempsey’s 25-yard goal in the 40th minute.

Capello said errors are part of the game.

“We have to accept the mistake of the goalkeeper, the mistake of the referee, and we have to accept the mistake of the forward -- this is football,” he said. “The most important thing is the score.”

David James

James, 39, said he’s prepared to step into the role if selected. He’s been on previous World Cup squads and has played 50 matches for the national team, 39 more than Green.

“You have to keep focused on playing, regardless of whether you’re No. 1 or not, anything can happen, injuries or whatever, so you’re geared up to play the next game until the team’s announced,” he said in an interview. “I’m ready to come on if needs be.”

The Portsmouth goalkeeper, who knows a little about costly handling errors, said he’d speak with Green today.

Green buried his head in the turf after Dempsey’s shot rolled slowly into the back of the net. After the game, unlike several of his England teammates, he stopped to take questions from reporters about the incident.

“It’s not a problem, it’s not an issue, I’ll carry on like normal,” he said. “You make mistakes, but you’ve got to be mentally strong. That’s the game of football.”

Blame the Ball

While Green struggled, Howard was named man of the match. The North Brunswick, New Jersey-raised goalkeeper, who plays with Everton in the Premier League, played the last hour of the game with a rib injury after a collision with England striker Emile Heskey.

Howard blamed Green’s mistake on Adidas AG’s Jabulani World Cup ball.

“We’ve been saying all week this ball is doing silly things, unfortunately at this level sometimes these things are going to happen,” he told a post-match press conference. “I feel terrible for him. When you’re goalkeeping you have to have broad shoulders.”

U.S. goal scorer Dempsey agreed. “It definitely did,” the midfielder said when asked if the ball had played a part.

The match was the first time the two teams had met at a World Cup since 1950, when the U.S. won 1-0 in what’s considered as one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history.

Howard said the team could look forward to the rest of the tournament now that the England match was over.

“We’ve talked about England for six months,” he said. “There’s been a lot of hype and pressure and we’re just glad we’ve put in a performance that we can be proud of.”

The other teams in Group C, Slovenia and Algeria, meet today in Polokwane, South Africa. The U.S. plays Slovenia June 18, while England plays Algeria later the same day.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tariq Panja in Rustenburg via the London newsroom at tpanja@bloomberg.net; Alastair Reed in Rustenburg at areed12@bloomberg.net

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