England Stutter Against Algeria

So this is supposed to be a World Cup contender?

England, picked by more than a few to win this year’s competition and thus end an agonizing 44-year drought, could only manage a 0-0 draw against African minnow Algeria on Friday night. The result means England faces an embarrassing exit at the group stage if it fails to beat plucky Slovenia and the other game, between the U.S. and Algeria, produces a winner.
England boss Fabio Capello, looking increasingly lost, dropped Robert Green after his howler against the U.S. and replacement David James, nearing 40, was faultless. He was one of England’s bright spots.

Capello, despite Steven Gerrard’s solid showing in the center of midfield against the U.S., relegated the captain to the left side Friday after the return of holding midfielder Gareth Barry. Frank Lampard got the nod in the center – and flopped.
Wayne Rooney was almost invisible, and childishly criticized the fans for booing England’s wretched performance. Emile Heskey, good against the U.S., reverted to type. And surprisingly, when Capello hauled off Aaron Lennon in the second half, Shaun Wright-Phillips was preferred to Joe Cole. Ridiculous. England hardly created a chance, and while Algeria didn’t create one, either, the Africans were the more accomplished passers.

England’s worries in central defense mounted. Jamie Carragher picked up a yellow card, so he’s gone for the next game. With Ledley King unavailable, who’ll get the nod to partner John Terry?

The signs don’t look good.

The draw capped a day of surprises in South Africa. Serbia upset Germany 1-0, getting a helping hand from the poor Spanish referee, and the U.S. was held to a 2-2 tie against Slovenia. The Americans rallied from 2-0 down, then had a perfectly good goal disallowed in the dying minutes. The refs finally had an off day.

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