Needle does Howard a favour

Published Jun. 13, 2010 10:11 a.m. ET

Howard made a string of superb saves in the second half to earn his country a 1-1 draw in their Group C opener in Rustenburg and claim the man-of-the-match prize. But afterwards the Everton keeper revealed the full extent of the injury he suffered in a nasty-looking first-half collision with Emile Heskey as the pair went to cut out Glen Johnson's low cross. "Emile caught me right in the ribs," said Howard. "I honestly didn't know whether it was broken or not. "I was just trying to breathe and that was tough enough. I was going to give myself five or 10 minutes because I knew once the adrenalin kicked back in I was going to be all right until half-time. "But it was really sore and it did cross my mind I might have to be substituted. "Thankfully I managed to make it through and eventually had a pain-killing injection and some medicine." It meant Howard was not in a position to offer a detailed analysis of Robert Green's howler. The USA did not do anything quite as bad during his time at Manchester United. But Sir Alex Ferguson did eventually lose patience with more minor, but equally costly errors and decided the 31-year-old's concentration levels were not what he required at a club - where long periods of inactivity can be followed by an isolated moment which turns out to be pivotal. Since moving to Everton, initially on loan, in 2006, Howard has proved himself to be one of the Premier League's most competent keepers. And having observed Green at close quarters, he has nothing but sympathy for the man now being blamed for England's failure to open their Group C campaign with a win. "There is a bond between the keepers," he said. "You understand the criticism that is heaped upon keepers. "I feel for Green. Even when we equalised, I had mixed emotions at that very moment because you know what happened in the moment is not nice. "He is a fantastic goalkeeper. I have known him from playing against him for a number of years and he will bounce back. "You need to be strong and have broad shoulders - and Robert does." It was hard to escape the comparison between the two goalkeepers though, especially as, despite his discomfort, Howard denied Emile Heskey after the England forward had been put clean through by Aaron Lennon. Given Heskey has only scored seven times in an international career which is now approaching 60 games, it was probably not a surprise. But, unlike Green for the goal, Howard's technique was up to the task. "You have to be bold and stand strong," he said. "I knew he had the opportunity to pick any corner he wanted but the longer you stand up the better. "I read what he was going to do and in the end he probably caught it too clean and just hit it at me." Howard's in-depth knowledge of English soccer means he realises a period of introspection and naval gazing will inevitably follow before Friday's second game against Algeria in Cape Town. But he does not believe the anxiety needs to go too far as he still considers England to be favourites to top the group. "We will have to see how the group shapes out," said Howard, whose team will be squaring up against Slovenia at Ellis Park in their next match. "It is certainly possible for us to win it but I still feel England are favourites to top the group and go through. "The point is we have shown we will fight and scratch to try and make it possible for us to go through as well. "We came into the game as underdogs and we relished it. "I don't know what the odds are going to be for the next two games but we can come out of this game very confident."