One couldn’t help but pity the forlorn Premier League superstars, who got booed off the pitch by their own fans, as lackadaisical England failed to defeat a disciplined but average Algerian side in what can safely be regarded as one of the worst matches so far in this World Cup. Both sides together managed just seven shots on target and this toothless performance leaves England in a very precarious situation, with all to do in their final game against Slovenia on Wednesday.
Coming into this match, England were unbeaten in fifteen previous matches against African opponents, while Algeria had lost their last three World Cup games and had gone 301 minutes without scoring a goal. It was a match England should have won even if they did not play at their best, according to a certain Wayne Rooney.
The game got off to a scrappy start, with no team being able to establish control in the opening few minutes. It took a David Beckham camera shot, at the sidelines, to get the match truly underway. James, brought in to lend some experience, at the expense of much criticised Green, didn’t inspire confidence when he unconvincingly punched a high ball pumped in from the right; despite this initial stutter England survived. Algeria maintained decent possession up till five minute from the first half whistle, and were the better team going forward.
Whenever the Three Lions had the ball, there was no rhythm in their game as they seemed to be in a hurry to force things, eventually loosing the ball on most occasions. Frank Lampard had the best chance to put England ahead, when Aaron Lennon’s half-cleared cross found him in the box, but his shot was saved by a diving Rais M’Bolhi – Algeria’s second custodian in two games.
After making his comeback from injury, Barry was not his usual assured self as he appeared to be lacking in match fitness. Ten minutes from time, he lost possession way too cheaply in the Algerian half. The Desert Foxes broke with intent and Karim Zaini used his pace to cut inside Carragher and fired a shot from the edge of the England box, but it hit the side-netting.
Before the first half ended, Rooney and Gerrard both tried their luck from distance. While Gerrard’s shot soared miles over the keeper’s head, Rooney’s long-ranger lacked the venom to cause any serious trouble. On the sidelines, Fabio Capello was seething, seeing his team struggle against a team ranked way below them.
If the England supporters had hoped that the Italian would be able to wake his team from its slumber during the interval, they couldn’t have been more off the mark. After the break, Gerrard and Lampard wasted possession in good areas and were not able to create anything substantial. Ten minutes into the second half, Lampard played a clever ball to the England captain, but the latter failed to pick-out the Chelsea man in a dangerous area.
At the other end, Carrager struck out his hand to deny Hassan Yebda from making a run into the box, and was booked. This was his second yellow card in two games; as a result of which the Liverpool defender would miss the all-important clash against Slovenia.
At the hour mark, Lennon was replaced by Shaun Wright-Philips and the Manchester City winger seemed a like-for-like replacement in all aspects, especially the ability to go absent-without-leave – when the team was in desperate need of utilising the flanks. Finally Capello decided to pull the plug on Heskey, thereby ending the pain, both he and the fans had to endure, till the time he was on the pitch. Defoe was brought on for him, but all he could muster was a long-range effort, just like his more illustrious team-mates had done thus far.
Ten minutes from time, Capello called upon the long-ball expert Peter Crouch to dig his team out from the grave they had dug for themselves. Even that didn’t bring any joy to the Englishmen as the Algerians soaked in whatever little pressure that their opponents exerted in the final few minutes, to earn themselves a well-deserved point.
Team England may not be termed unlucky to lose in a penalty shoot-out in this World Cup, as frankly they have not looked like a team that even deserves to progress to the knock-out stage up until now.
TheHardTackle’s Player of the Match:
Nadir Belhadj (Algeria)
He caused Glen Johnson problems on more than one occasion and delivered few quality crosses. He was even solid defensively, keeping England’s right wing under control. Karim Ziani deserves a special mention for his first half performance, but he wasn’t able to sustain it beyond the half-time.
TheHardTackle’s Referee Report Card:
R Irmatov (Uzbekistan) – Grade: A
The referee did not have much to do, considering majority of the players weren’t doing enough. Just dished out two yellow cards, one to Carragher and the other to Lacen. He had a decent control over the match at all times.
ENGLAND 0 – 0 ALGERIA
Green Point Stadium, Cape Town
England Line-up: James, Johnson, Cole, Terry, Carragher, Gerrard, Lennon (Wright-Phillips 63′), Lampard, Barry (Crouch 84′), Rooney, Heskey (Defoe 74′)
Manager: Fabio Capello
Caution: Carragher 58′
Algeria Line-up: M’Bohli, Bougherra, Belhadj, Yahia, Halliche, Boudebouz (Abdoun 73′), Lacen, Ziani (Guedioura 80′), Yebda (Mesbah 88′), Kadir, Matmour
Manager: Rabah Saadane
Caution: Lacen 85′