England 0-0 Algeria – England face South Africa exit
By Matthew Duncan.
A display lacking any verve left England staring the distinct possibility of a group stage exit in South Africa after a goalless draw with Algeria. On a night were fans and pundits alike were expecting to see an easy victory for England in Cape Town, the Three Lions could not roar, only whimper. They must now beat Slovenia in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday if they are to avoid falling at the first hurdle of the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
As expected David James was brought into the starting line-up after Rob Green’s mistake against the U.S.A. with Gareth Barry also starting in place of James Milner. In defence Jamie Carragher was the replacement for the injured Ledley King. Algeria started the game the brighter side, passing the ball well and attempting to stretch England. David James was the busier keeper in the first half but there was little in terms of imagination coming from either side.
Whilst Algeria lacked the ability to really break England down, England lacked any cohesion, pace or purpose whatsoever. Wayne Rooney looked a shadow of the player he does for Manchester United whilst Steven Gerrard struggled to get into the game from the left hand side.
England finally managed to construct an attack after half an hour. Aaron Lennon found space out wide and his cross eventually found Frank Lampard whose shot from ten yards was well saved by Rais M’Bholi in the Algerian goal.
Despite the obvious deficiencies in the performance Fabio Capello decided against any changes at half time. Unsurprisingly then, with players either out of form or out of position, the second period continued in the same fashion.
Capello waited until the hour mark until making a change, sending on Shaun Wright-Phillips for Aaron Lennon but sticking to the same shape. The Manchester City winger failed to make any real impact apart from winning one free kick after beating his man.
With Rooney playing so poorly England lacked a focal point in attack, a role that Emile Heskey was unable to fill. The Aston Villa striker found himself through on goal midway through the half but his shot was deflected over, whilst Gerrard could only head straight at M’Bholi from a corner.
But still England lacked passion and incision and could not create any clear cut chances with Algeria rarely looking troubled. Jamie Carragher was booked after bringing down Hasan Yebda, meaning he will miss the match with Slovenia, giving Capello another headache in central defence.
As the match edged tediously towards its conclusion Capello switched Heskey for Jermaine Defoe, another move that had little effect on the game. The Tottenham man failed to get the ball on the target when he found himself through in the area and then hit a shot from outside the area well over.
In a final fling of the dice, Peter Crouch was brought on for Gareth Barry, although instead of attacking with three upfront, Rooney was pushed out to the left hand side. After one final corner, over-hit by Gerrard, the whistle was blown and England’s fans could be heard booing their team even over the drone of the vuvuzelas.
In truth this was a display far removed from what would be expected from a team hoping to go far in this tournament and Capello will have had much to ponder as the sun set on his 64th birthday.
What did you think of the performance? What should Capello change for the Slovenia match?
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