Frank Lampard’s ghost goal and the thrashing by Germany

Bloemfontein, South Africa, 2010. England are playing Germany for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals. Ugh. The dissonant, atonal droning of vuvuzelas fills your ears. Ugh. Fabio Capello. Ugh. Fabio Capello is sitting on the bench with a face like a melted waxwork AND he’s playing Steven Gerrard on the left wing. Double ugh. Germany’s Mesut Ozil is in on goal within four minutes. UGH.

Somehow, impossibly, it gets even worse from there.

It’s not unusual for England fans to feel a genuine sense of injustice at major tournaments. Both David Beckham and Wayne Rooney received red cards that were just as much a result of overzealous dramatisation from the opposing team as they were from the initial moment of idiocy themselves. Or at least that’s how we like to frame it.

Furthermore, losing on penalties can rarely if ever be interpreted as an injustice, as the force of the footballing gods conspiring against you, but somehow we managed to brand them like that too, such is our ungodly habit of crashing out of World Cups and European championships via spot kicks on a regular basis.

In terms of emotional baggage, we already have all that to moan about. Rightly or wrongly (definitely wrongly). But then there’s Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany, which was, let’s be honest, a total and utter travesty. A crime against football. A debacle. A scandal. A nonsense of the highest order.

While we, as a nation, have an inherent tendency to overreact, this was perhaps the one occasion that we were well within our rights to light the torches and grab our pitchforks.

Let’s take a look back at it and relive all that pain and trauma, shall we?

Harry Symeou hosts Semra Hunter, Andy Headspeath & Toby Cudworth to look back on South Africa ’10 as part of the ‘Our World Cups’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

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Germany take the lead in under 20 minutes through a brilliantly executed team move. Honestly, the quality of football is staggering. Manuel Neuer hoofs a long ball aimlessly up the pitch, John Terry and Matthew Upson forget where they are, who they are and what sport they are playing, and Miroslav Klose wriggles in to slide tackle past David James. Phenomenal stuff. Really, really good. Sometimes you just have to sit back and applaud the sheer artistry on show. Hats off, Germany. Truly. I’m not bitter at all.

Ugh. The vuvuzelas.

12 minutes later and England’s problems double. Thomas Muller gets in behind an England defence with all the structural integrity of a sandcastle and squares for Lukas Podolski. Podolski, however, takes a poor first touch and finds himself both too far wide and at too narrow an angle to shoot. He shoots, David James does a big star jump over the ball – because of course he does – and Germany are suddenly two to the good. Ugh.

If you had any hope England would get back into this game at this point, credit to you. I yearn for your unfailing sense of optimism. I’m over here too busy ugh-ing.

Lampard has a chance but doesn’t connect properly with a stunning (I repeat, stunning) James Milner delivery from the right and Neuer saves from point-blank range. Miraculously, a goal comes. England work a short corner back to Steven Gerrard who whips in a teasing cross. Upson rises. My god he gets up, son. Neuer starfishes. 2-1. Game on? Is it game on? IS IT NOW THAT THE GAME IS IN FACT ON?

Less than a minute later we had our answer. It was game on. Or at least it should have been. England had pulled it back to 2-2 in a blink of an eye and had all the momentum.

Jermain Defoe is trying to spin away towards the German goal but gets dispossessed by a lunging challenge from Arne Friedrich. The loose ball bounces up, and hits an onrushing Lampard who, in turn, lashes it over Neuer from the edge of the box. It crashes against the bar and down, backwards, beyond the line, before it springs back up and reverses its path safely into Neuer’s hands.

It’s over the line. It’s way over the line. It’s so far beyond the line it might as well be in Lesotho looking back at the line and thinking “How the hell did I get all the way over here, in Lesotho, the country landlocked entirely as an enclave within the borders of South Africa?”.

It’s not given. The goal is not given. The thing that should be deemed a goal is actually deemed the opposite; not a goal. The goal that is fundamentally and unequivocally a goal is not given as a goal, and Podolski goes up the other end to fire a 100mph fastball just wide of the post.

Eight years later in Russia we would benefit from Hawk-Eye, goal-line technology and the ever polarising VAR. But at this point, all we could do was grab the pitchforks. And by ‘grab the pitchforks’ I mean ‘boo and swear very loudly at the television’, as is the tradition in our culture.

Wayne Rooney remonstrates with assistant referee Mauricio Espinosa

Wayne Rooney remonstrates with assistant referee Mauricio Espinosa / Clive Mason/GettyImages

England come out for the second-half with Steven Gerrard still remonstrating with the referee. Probably not even about the goal, but about being asked to play left-wing by a miserable Italian man. On commentary, Mark Lawrenson urges the team not to bring anger back out onto the pitch, as it will lead to ‘poor decisions’.

This is perhaps the first and only time Mark Lawrenson has ever been right about anything.

Lampard hits a knuckle ball free-kick off the bar from a ludicrous distance. England are on top, but both teams struggle to create chances that aren’t hopeful efforts from range. And then… UGH.

He then hits another ambitious free-kick, this time straight into the wall and Gareth Barry loses the rebound on the edge of the German penalty area. Germany break. England have only Ashley Cole back, but Lampard and one Glen Johnson make up ground. Germany work it one way and then back the other to free Muller in the box, but again wide and with a poor shooting angle. He shoots regardless.

James’ positioning is great and with Lampard closing down, Muller has no way of scoring. Muller scores, which may or may not have something to do with James, a professional goalkeeper, closing his eyes and flapping his hands at the shot – hit directly at him – as though he is attempting to deflect a water balloon away from his face but is terrified of getting the consequent splash in his eyes.

They think it’s all over. It is. It definitely is. But it especially is now. Three minutes later Ozil chases a clearance down the left with no England players back other than Cole and Barry, quickly closing in. Except Barry isn’t quickly closing in at all and is instead moving so slowly that he may as well be running backwards. With an anchor tied around his waist. On the moon.

Ozil jogs into the box, squares through Cole’s legs and Muller is there to fire into the roof of the net. 4-1.

Had Lampard’s goal been allowed, though… had it just been rightfully given… had justice been enacted in England’s favour just this once, however… and we may well have lasted long enough to go out in a blaze of glory on penalties.

So just bear that in mind please, Germany and everyone else with memories of us being terrible at the 2010 World Cup. We did make it 2-2 at one point, and that we will take.

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