It’s certainly important when you face him that you can’t anticipate. Because he hits the ball right on the little air nozzle (valve/adapter) of the ball, then he hits in the middle of the ball and tries to put topspin on it; very similar to playing tennis. He keeps his ankle locked but with an open foot. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to do so and when you strike a ball in that manner, it wobbles.
The very first movement you see is very rarely the direction it ends up going. Trying to anticipate that it’s going over the wall or around the wall, even if you don’t take a full step and just lean your body in the direction where he wants you, just the pace of the ball will beat you.
It’s invariably going to go the opposite way. So it’s very important, and Timmy (Howard) knows because he’s played against him many times. It is very important that you stay upright and on the balls of your feet and ready to react as best you can.
If you over-commit to the first movement of the ball and it slightly goes the other way, then you’re dead. So it’s really important that you stay light on your feet. You just have to follow the late movements of the ball. But that’s what makes it such a difficult shot to save.
There aren’t very many players who can strike a ball like he does. Gareth Bale has a very similar style of striking the ball. Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, to be honest even Luka Modric a little bit, to a lesser extent. He has the technique in him. Brazil’s David Luiz has that technique in him.
It doesn’t come a dime a dozen, but some of the top, elite players around the world definitely do it better than others.
Talking of Frank Lampard, I’m sure people back in England are pretty upset about seeing the national team go out early, but the interesting thing is the team didn’t really play so badly.
I thought in that first game they were excellent. I really did. Italy are a good side. It was one of those games where either team could’ve won. But (England) had 18 attempts on Italy’s goal. I thought (Salvatore) Sirigu played very well for Italy. I know Italy had a couple of chances themselves but by and large England were the better team that day. I thought picking Raheem Sterling and playing him as the No.10, more centrally just behind Daniel Sturridge, caused Italy a lot of problems and I thought it surprised Italy a little bit.
Obviously the inclusion of Luis Suarez helped Uruguay dramatically but I don’t think England played well against Uruguay. I think they ran out of ideas. When they floated (Wayne) Rooney – who I thought actually had a decent game – back into the middle, that took away the attacking options from Sterling. Rooney is a very adaptable player and very good playing in that narrow three behind Sturridge. He can play on that left-hand side. So I think by making that move it made them a touch more predictable.
Having said that, after they got themselves back into the game, they gave up one of the poorest goals of the tournament – from a goalkeeper’s kick.
It has nothing to do with formations, nothing to do with tactics. It’s just a mistake that you can’t legislate for. The goalkeeper has the ball in his hand, you know Luis Suarez is gonna take a chance and run. So as center half, you have to give yourself some distance. It’s not a time to try and play offside. It’s not a time to try to react late. I think you go with safety first.
So, they’re out mainly due to a couple of individual mistakes in that Uruguay game. Once England scored, I thought there was only one team in it; very similar to the U.S. game because Ghana handed it to us in the second half. Once (Andre) Ayew scored I thought there was only team that was going to win – and it wasn’t the U.S.!
But, we came back. So England got sucker-punched a little bit just as Ghana did against us. So they’re going home …