England 0-0 Algeria - Match Report
There was no happy birthday for Fabio Capello in Cape Town as England were booed by their own supporters following a dreadful goalless draw against Algeria that leaves their World Cup hopes hanging by a thread.
Although they exerted some late pressure, if Capello's men had denied Algeria a point it would have been a massive injustice on a night when Franz Beckenbauer's assessment of England being a "kick and rush" team was proved to be false. They weren't as good as that.
The maths are now quite simple. Beat Slovenia - when they will be without the suspended Jamie Carragher - in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday and England have scrambled their way into the last 16. Fail and in all probability they will go home.
And, after the evidence of their 180 minutes so far since their arrival in South Africa, that is exactly what they will deserve.
Capello said yesterday he has not made any mistakes.
After watching his team hardly threaten the Algerian goal, if he still feels that way, his bunch of players truly are woeful.
Because all the altitude training, and all the preparations at their Rustenburg hideaway have delivered a paucity of performance that is almost too bad to be believed.
Having told the world he would not confirm the identity of his chosen goalkeeper until two hours before kick-off, it transpired Capello's mind had been made up by the final training session last night.
A couple of mistakes from Rob Green were enough to convince Capello the West Ham man could not be trusted, so David James was in for his first competitive start in 15 months.
Really though it was supposed to be a watching brief for the man who stood between the sticks. Against a side ranked 30th in the world, and from a continent that has never beaten England, in front of Prince William, the Three Lions were supposed to deliver a performance fit for a king.
How wrong that assumption was.
England's lack of guile was embarrassing at times.
It took Capello's men until three minutes before the break to retain possession for any decent period.
Every time they got hold of the ball, it seemed England were in a rush to get rid of it, or at least try to force something to happen, which ultimately amounted to the same thing.
Wayne Rooney did not appear fit. He certainly endured a frustrating time of it.
Penalised after two muscular tangles, England's talisman eventually managed a shot when the opening period was in its death throes. Like so many England efforts, it was struck from the edge of the area and posed little threat.
The best chance fell Frank Lampard's way after Aaron Lennon's cross had been half-cleared by Rafik Halliche but it was saved.
For the first hour Algeria were the more inventive side. They were quicker, slicker, possessed greater imagination and incisive movement. In short, they were superior in all the technical aspects of the game. Only in those staples of the Premier League, strength and power, were the north Africans lacking.
On the bench, David Beckham could only wonder what might have been. Who knows where Paul Scholes is but the Manchester United midfielder must feel he made the right decision in rejecting Capello's call.
After waiting so long for Gareth Barry to recover from his ankle injury, the England boss watched his preferred holding midfielder lose the ball to Karim Matmour.
Possession was quickly transferred upfield and after cutting inside Glen Johnson, Karim Ziani drilled his shot into the side-netting rather than test James fully with the controversial Jabulani ball Capello hates so much.
The Italian could not have been happy. The England supporters certainly weren't. And the second half did not start any better.
Steven Gerrard and Lampard both wasted possession after finding themselves in decent positions, while at the other end Carragher stuck out an arm to deny Hassan Yebda a chance to race into the box and was booked.
The yellow card had additional significance and means Capello must either turn to Matthew Upson for next Wednesday's encounter with unbeaten Slovenia, having relegated the West Ham man to fifth choice centre-half, including Rio Ferdinand, or hand Michael Dawson his debut.
That clash was quickly taking on the status of must-win.
Finally England's fitness was allowing them to dictate the game. Yet old failings remain and the introduction of additional pace in the form of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermain Defoe could not rectify them.
After 83 minutes of fruitless toil, Capello turned to Peter Crouch. Back to the long ball.
Even that did not work.
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