England vs Algeria – Match Preview
By Ross Mackiewicz.
England fans can be buoyed by the news that Gareth Barry will return to the starting eleven this coming Friday for the second game in Group C as the Three Lions aim to silence their critics against Algeria following the one all draw against the USA. Fabio Capello has confirmed that the Manchester City anchorman will return to the fold after missing a month of action following an ankle injury in the penultimate Premier League fixture against Tottenham Hotspur.
The knifes have been sharpened by the press after the opening encounter against the Americans where a piece of goalkeeping madness from Robert Green gifted them the point and has put his participation in the upcoming fixtures under scrutiny. England had looked comfortable for the opening forty minutes but the wind was taken out of their sails following Green’s error.
Ledley King only played the opening forty-five minutes against the US and had to be replaced at half time by Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher. Despite initial fears of a serious injury it turns out that the Tottenham skipper has only suffered a slight groin tear but has unfortunately been ruled out for the second fixture. If all goes to plan he should be back in contention for the Slovenia match at Port Elizabeth next Wednesday. Matthew Upson, Michael Dawson and Jamie Carragher are all fighting for a place to partner John Terry in the centre of defence. Carragher would seem to be the front runner due to his vast amount of experience but his lack of pace may concern Fabio Capello due to Algeria’s high tempo play up top.
Who will be partnering Wayne Rooney up front is another area for debate. Emile Heskey was one of England’s better performers last Saturday with his high work ethic and hold up play but squandered a magnificent opportunity to restore his teams lead in the second half. Fabio Capello has indeed confirmed that he will decide between the Villa man and Jermain Defoe as to who will link up with Rooney. Defoe himself endured a frustrating end to the season with Spurs with a lack of goals but his goal scoring record for England is better than Heskey’s by notching eleven times for his country compared to the 32 year old’s seven. Defoe also possesses the pace and finishing which his rival lacks and may work in his favour as the England boss ponders the change.
The much talked about Goalkeeping position isn’t going away. Once again the debate rumbles on as to who is England’s number one? Robert Green’s catastrophic mistake last Saturday has tarnished his reputation as he joined England’s hall of shame for goalkeeping calamities. Capello has confirmed that Green isn’t a foregone conclusion to start against Algeria but the consequences of him being dropped could result in his confidence being shattered. The fiery Italian has alot to think about before making up his mind. David James had been struggling with a knee injury prior to the start of the tournament but has finally shaken it off in recent days to stake his claim for the number one slot. Joe Hart is also in contention but the young man’s lack of experience may cost him the coveted spot.
With Barry back in the eleven it would seem that Captain Steven Gerrard will be moved out to the left hand side with Barry and Lampard complimenting each other in the middle. Aaron Lennon terrorised the Americans with his burst of pace and worked well in conjunction with Glen Johnson down the right hand side. Their inclusion seems certain with Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney also being formalities. The only areas left for Capello to decide are indeed the goalkeeper, John Terry’s partner in defence and Wayne Rooney’s accomplice up front.
Algeria will arrive to Cape Town determined to upset the odds. They lost their opening fixture to Slovenia in Polokwane following another goalkeeping blunder in group C as Faouzi Chaouchi let Robert Koren’s tame effort drift past him after misjudging the flight of the ball. A real disappointment for the Algerians who also saw their substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal dismissed after picking up two silly bookings which will now see him suspended for the tie.
Algeria know they cannot afford to lose as they will be one of the early casualties in South Africa to book an early flight home. Their coach Rabah Saadane is an astute tactician who sets up his team’s solidly in defence and emphasise their attacking nature on the counter. His side’s temperament is definitely questionable who seem to bulk under pressure when things don’t go their way. The prime example would be the African Cup of Nations defeat to Egypt last January where they were reduced to eight men and were humbled four-nil by the side they defeated to make it to South Africa.
England cannot afford to underestimate the African side who posses Karim Ziani. A lovely little player who has creative sparkle to unhinge opposition defences. He is also very quick and Capello will need to keep an eye on him during the course of the game.
The Three Lions are the resounding favourites but shouldn’t take this match lightly by any means. Algeria will be pumped up to claim a huge upset and will take encouragement from Switzerland who have provided the shock of the tournament so far as they defeated favourites Spain one-nil. England needs to get off to a good start. They will be keen to put the record straight and silence their doubters. Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer spoke of his displeasure about way England play this week and that is more than enough encouragement for Rooney and Co to make him eat his words. It’s time for England to arrive at this World Cup and illustrate their abilities to the globe.