World Cup 2010: England 0-0 Algeria: Three Lions' Worst Performance in Years
An abysmal England drew 0-0 with Algeria in the ironically named Green Point Stadium to leave their chances of reaching the Last-16 on a knife edge. It was one of the Three Lions' worst ever performances, and they can count themselves lucky that they lived to fight another day.
Should they beat Slovenia on Wednesday they will reach the Last-16. On their last two performances that looks highly unlikely.
Fabio Capello had rung the changes after England's poor showing in the 1-1 draw with the USA. Gareth Barry returned to central midfield, as Steven Gerrard moved out to the left, while Jamie Carragher replaced the injured Ledley King at the back.
However, the biggest move of all was David James's inclusion at the expense of Robert Green. The West Ham keeper had endured a horrendous week since his clanger against the U.S. and had an absolute nightmare day in training on Thursday, making countless mistakes in front of the watching media.
So it was no real surprise to see James get the Green light. How James was told though is another matter entirely.
The 40-year-old Pompey player becoming the oldest debutant in World Cup history, a real bittersweet moment for the likeable giant.
Algeria had made changes too. Rabah Saddanne was saved the job of having to drop Chaouchi after his blunder to let Slovenia's Robert Koren score, as the keeper picked up an injury in training, leaving Rais M'bolhi to come into the team.
Player for player, Algeria probably have a better squad than the United States, but lack the American's discipline and cohesion, so this game was going to be no walk in the park for Fabio Capello and his boys.
Interestingly enough, 16 of Algeria's 23-man squad were born in France and were brought up through the French schoolboy system.
Considering the earlier blood and thunder of the USA 2-2 Slovenia match, this game kicked off at a very sedate pace. The two sides seemed incredibly wary of one another, and such was the lack of action around M'bolhi's goal that a bird actually flew down and perched on the back of the net!
Safest place in the stadium, judging by England's early play.
We didn't have to wait long for David James's first involvement in the game; a decidedly dodgy punch on the 11 minute mark after he climbed to reach Ziani's cross.
His clearance flew about 20 feet straight up into the air before coming straight back down, where Glen Johnson tried to volley the ball clear, only to mishit it straight to Frank Lampard on the edge of the box.
Poor play by Rob Green's replacement, but he got away with the error.
Algeria continued to force the early play, Ziani again the chief architect, as his whipped cross from the left was miskicked by Jamie Carragher straight into the arms of a relieved James.
From here it was beginning to look like the occasion was getting to England. The ball was like a hot potato, and every time Gerrard, Lampard, or Barry picked it up in midfield, they gave it straight back to Algeria.
By this stage Algeria were the more cultured team on the ball and were dictating the flow of the game.
With Emile Heskey offering no threat either through movement or touch, the Algerian's 3-5-2 formation was overcrowding England in midfield and allowing the Africans to gain the upper hand. The only thing stopping them from taking the lead was their own lack of a finishing touch up front.
Fabio Capello cut a furious figure on the sideline as he barked orders to his lacklustre midfield. There is a distinct lack of quality, creativity, and most importantly, confidence, and when Frank Lampard did eke out a chance against the run of play, M'bolhi was equal to it, squeezing the effort around the post.
As halftime approached, Rabah Saddanne was easily the happier coach. Knowing a thing or two about lambasting his team, he would have taken great comfort from the red faces of Capello and Stuart Pearce as they screamed orders to a team that just simply weren't listening.
England's performance in the first half was shocking; and as bad as they played against the USA, they were playing even worse against Algeria, and were succeeding in making the Desert Foxes look like a really good team.
Coming into the game, Emile Heskey would have to be withdrawn, having offered nothing against the U.S., and he was offering less than nothing now. One of two things would have to happen, either Peter Crouch would have to come on or Joe Cole would come in on the left as Gerrard gets pushed forward.
The word at half-time?
The second half started in the same vain, as England continued to give the ball away cheaply while Algeria dictated the tides.
The best news that England could take from the dire performance in the first half is that they are unbeaten in their last four games when the score was 0-0 at half-time, and with Kevin Keegan saying that "a draw wouldn't be a bad result," you knew things weren't going well.
A quick England break early in the second half summed up their performance perfectly.
Frank Lampard won the ball in midfield and slid the ball through to Gerrard on the right hand side of the box, a shot wasn't on, but Gerrard had three England jerseys facing him, and found the sole Algerian in the middle of them.
Jamie Carragher then picked up a yellow card for an undisciplined foul on the edge of the box, meaning that the Liverpool defender is now suspended for England's final match against Slovenia on Wednesday.
The only England player who even appeared to be trying as the second half wore on was Wayne Rooney, and even he was having a desperate night.
He came close to opening his account on the hour mark, when Aaron Lennon's beautifully weighted cross was tipped off his head.
Minutes later, Capello made the first substitution of the game and amazingly left Emile Heskey on the pitch, as Aaron Lennon was taken off in favour of Shaun Wright Phillips. An incredibly strange like for like substitution.
John Terry then made a cardinal error, as he grossly under-hit his back-pass to David James, but thankfully the England keeper was on his toes, and cleared the ball for his errant centre half.
Algeria kept probing and trying to isolate Jamie Carragher, who was getting no help whatsoever from the rest of his defence, for on more than one occasion did the Liverpool man take the ball by the skin of his teeth.
Emile Heskey was finally relieved of his duties in the 72nd minute as Jermaine Defoe made his way onto the pitch.
The Spurs man's introduction actually sparked a bit of life from Steven Gerrard, and for the first time in the match, England actually exchanged meaningful passes, winning a succession of corners as momentum threatened to build.
The biggest question on everyone's lips was, where is Joe Cole? Surely this game was set up for the ex-Chelsea playmaker?
Having used Robert Green's mistake to mask their horrendous performance against the USA, surely a late goal wouldn't be allowed to hide this one?
Karim Ziani made his way off the pitch as Saddanne played his last card. The little Wolfsburg midfielder was a constant thorn in England's midfield all night. Gerrard and Lampard would be relieved men.
With only five minutes to go, Fabio Capello made the last throw of the dice and brought Peter Crouch on, a case of too little, too late. Wayne Rooney was such a dejected figure by this stage that he was showing up in midfield and effectively taking the ball off Gerrard and Lampard in an effort at creating something, anything.
In the end, the game whimpered to a close, and Rabah Saddane can be very proud of the way his team set about their business, for they dictated the game, controlled the tempo, and reduced their mighty opponents to less than half chances. If they had a little more quality up front, they would be celebrating a much deserved win.
Fabio Capello is one of the highest rated managers in World football, but even he is learning that the white hot heat of the World Cup is a completely different game than club football will ever be.
At an estimated £8 million a year, the Italian was brought in to fix the mistakes made by England's previous managers. So far this tournament, he has put out two terribly incoherent teams and used backwards tactics.
Capello's problem is that he believes in tactics over players, and hasn't even come close to getting England's best side to play.
As bad as the performance levels were against the U.S., there are few words to describe how badly England played against Algeria. The manager sets the tone, and must take full responsibility for the lack of good play.
Putting England's performance into context. France were woeful against Mexico, but they didn't even try. England were worse and they did try.
England look like a team who cannot deal with the pressure of big tournaments and most worryingly, look unfit.
Algeria out-played and out-fought England and were first to every ball. They look tired, and questions must be asked about the amount of matches played in an average Premiership season for a Top-Four team.
There is no other way to say this, but this performance against Algeria was less than abject. A disgrace. And for all of Wayne Rooney's misgivings about being booed off, England deserved it.
Many fans have spent thousands upon thousands to support England in South Africa, and they, above all, deserve their say.
01 James (5) Did all he could do.
02 G Johnson (5) Pushed on but poor deliveries.
03 A Cole (6) England's only player not to embarrass himself
06 Terry (4) Lacked concentration
18 Carragher (YC) Lucky (4)
04 Gerrard (C) (3) Incredibly poor.
07 Lennon (3) Never got into the game (Wright-Phillips, 63) (2) Awful
08 Lampard (3) Never used the ball or got it back.
14 Barry (3) Looks unfit (Crouch, 84) (4) Hardly got a touch