Boos for England after Algeria stalemate
CAPE TOWN |
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - England delivered one of their worst tournament performances for years when they were held to a goalless draw by Algeria on Friday to leave their World Cup qualification hanging on the final matches.
However, any repeat of their ragged, disorganised error-strewn display in Green Point stadium is unlikely to be enough to get them past Slovenia in their final game and could lead to an embarrassing first-round exit having been given what was widely considered an easy draw.
Algeria, who had looked nervous in their opening 1-0 defeat by Slovenia, were good value for their draw and for long spells looked the sharper of the two teams.
Slovenia have four points after their 2-2 draw with the United States, who have two. England, who were booed off the pitch by their own fans, also have two points with the north Africans on one.
England's final game against Slovenia is in Port Elizabeth while Algeria take on the United States in Pretoria, both on June 23. If England win their last match they would go through, still possibly as group winners. A high-scoring draw could also be enough if the other game finished level.
Neither of those outcomes looked likely on Friday as from the first minute to the last, all over the pitch, they were awful.
A dejected-looking captain Steven Gerrard said there were no excuses.
"We know the job we've got to go and do, we have got to win the last game which adds more pressure," he said.
"We weren't aggressive enough, we never won the ball back early enough, we never had the cutting edge in the final third."
Coach Fabio Capello said: "I can change the tactics, I will try to do something different. It won't be difficult to lift them before Slovenia. They know what they have to do.
"We still have to play another game and we hope that will be happier. I don't know if it's pressure or we're not in a good moment. We lost too many balls, it's not the same team I know. I didn't see the spirit of the team."
The match was a huge disappointment for the Cape Town fans, who have now witnessed three uninspired draws featuring three of the biggest teams in the game after Italy and France faltered.
Both teams opted to change their goalkeepers after goal-costing blunders in their opening matches as David James, who turns 40 in six weeks, and Rais Ouheb Mbouli started.
Mbouli made one good diving save to keep out a Frank Lampard shot but with Wayne Rooney isolated and England struggling for any sort of cohesion, it was a rare moment of excitement.
Algeria were the crisper passers and had more movement but they too struggled to find the killer final pass.
The same dire fare was served up in the second half and though Emile Heskey and Gerrard were both denied by Mbouli and substitute Jermain Defoe lashed a late shot over the bar it was precious little, far too late.
England came into the game looking for a big win that would have given them control of the group and a potentially easier route through the knockout stage but they ended it desperate to avoid a first-round exit.
Algeria, buoyed by how easily the coped with the cream of the Premier League, will now fancy their chances of upsetting the U.S. to go through themselves.
"I said we'd improve as time went by and that is what is happening and we are also growing in confidence and that is very important," said their coach Rabah Saadane.
"The situation in the group is still open for every team to qualify."
(Editing by Michael Holden)
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