What if Robert Green never let in that soft World Cup goal?


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England were the heavy favorites when they entered the World Cup of 2010. That all changed when Robert Green let in the goal that is now known as “The Hand of Clod”.

Robert Green

The cover of The Sun post-England’s World Cup Grouping.

The English presses screamed “Easy!” when they learned of the Three Lions’ 2010 World Cup grouping.

Who could blame them? They were ranked 8th and the US was their highest ranked competitor at 14th, which was a generous ranking to say the least.

Heading into their clash with United States everything seemed to favor England, the talent, the skill, and the odds.

As they say though the games aren’t played on paper, and on June 12th they learned that the hard way.

England scored their first goal in the 4th minute when captain Steven Gerrard was left unmarked and put in a goal past U.S. and Everton goalkeeper, Tim Howard.

With that goal it seemed that all would be right for England on that night. But as the game was reaching halftime when U.S. forward Clint Dempsey took a seemingly harmless attempt at goal.

What happened next dampened Goalkeeper Robert Green’s career, changed England’s destiny, and may have changed the dynamics of football forever.

[youtube_sc url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEeuEURCKco"]

The ball harmlessly approached Green, and 99% of the time this would have been an easy scoop for the keeper, but on this occasion it bounced from his hands and went into the net tying the game at 1-1.

The game would finish 1-1, Robert Green was slammed by many as the reason for the draw against their “easy” opponent.

Some blamed the ball, but at the end of the day Green took full responsibility for the blunder.

‘It was a mistake, a genuine, horrible mistake. Games go at 100mph and these things happen. People don’t need to say much. I made a mistake and that’s life. You deal with it and move on. I’m not blaming the ball. I should have stopped it, there’s no two ways about it.’ (Daily Mail UK)

Three Lions’ would go on to take second in Group C, behind the United States who had the same record, same goal differential, but more goals for with 4.

Instead of facing the second place team in Group D, Ghana, they were placed against first place Germany in the Knockout Stage. Adding another chapter in the bitter rivalry between the countries.

By then Green had been replaced by England manager Fabio Capello for David James, a goalie at the twilight of his career.

Germany raced off to a quick 2-0 lead but England got a goal back via Matthew Upson in the 37th minute. Two minutes later Frank Lampard ripped a shot at German Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. The ball clearly went in but was waved off by the referee, and play resumed on. There was no goal line technology, or ability to review the missed call.

Robert Green

England would never recover and Germany kept their relentless counter-attack in motion, crushing Three Lions to the tune of 4-1. The loss eliminated England from the World Cup, and ended what should have been an easy trip to the World Cup final.

With Capello’s benching of Green it really put a damper on the player who had worked hard to get the starting job for England. Goalie was a concern for England heading into the World Cup but Green’s play with his club at the time, West Ham United, earned him the position.

Post-World Cup, Green never truly returned to the form that got him the job in the first place. After West Ham United was relegated in the 2010-11 season, he left the team to sign with Queen Parks Rangers, but was placed as second in line when the team signed Julio Caesar.

Had he never let in the soft goal, and been placed on the bench. The keeper may have remained England’s number one throughout the squads now theoretical World Cup run. Which means that his confidence would have never been deterred by such a soft goal, and clubs would not have been hesitant to make him their number one goal keeper instead of the quagmire he finds himself in today.

While Green remains on the England squad, he is distant from Joe Hart who has seized the opportunity via Green’s collapse.

Since the World Cup no-goal, England’s ruling body, the FA has taken the steps to carry out goal line technology in to their game, and most specifically their FA Cup tournament. The English Premier League has also announced they too will harness goal line technology.

The goal keeping lapse not only affected the FA, but also the world game.

FIFA, the world governing body of soccer has used Lampard’s no-goal as the event behind the change in policy. They will now use goal line technology in the 2014 World Cup.

Prior to the 2010 World Cup, FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter was opposed to the technology, but after the Lampard incident his perspective changed.

He changed his stance after seeing match officials miss Lampard’s shot bounce off the crossbar and land fully over the goal line in Bloemfontein. England would have leveled at 2-2 before halftime but lost 4-1 in the second round. (USA Today)

Some have said the change is too little too late, specifically Matt Le Tissier.

‘It’s about three World Cups too late,’ he said. ‘But better late than never. It’s used in every other sport but football has lagged way behind. It was going to take something massive to happen at a World Cup for FIFA to change their minds.’ (Daily Mail UK)

This brings everything full circle. Had Robert Green not let in the soft goal England wouldn’t have faced Germany in that round-of-16 match, and Frank Lampard would never of had his goal taken away.

Furthermore, when we consider Sepp Blatter’s stance before 2010, he would likely have kept his perspective on goal line technology. It’s not crazy to assume that we would be without today.

While there will always be slack given for Robert Green and “The Hand of Clod”, but the domino effect it created has seemingly changed the game forever.


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  • Andrew

    I actually have his autograph on a West Ham goalie jersey! Went to the West Ham vs MLS All-Stars a couple of years ago and it was amazing. When I saw him let in that goal it was awesome cause i knew i had his autograph.

  • Andrew

    Ironicly Stefan… I went to that game with you… :) HI Cousin

    • http://www.facebook.com/stefan.jagot Stefan Jagot

      Haha yes, I still have his autograph in my room. Not sure the net worth of that bad boy.