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18 Jun 2010 22:27
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 Soccer World Cup qualification hanging on the final matches.
However, a repeat of their ragged, disorganised, error-strewn display at Green Point Stadium is unlikely to be enough to get them past Slovenia 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 also have two points, with the North Africans on one.
England’s final game is against Slovenia in Port Elizabeth while Algeria take on the United States in Pretoria, both on June 23.
Supporters with tickets to those matches will hope for more entertainment than they got on Friday as Cape Town served up a third successive uninspired draw.
Struggle for cohesion
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.
Both were given something of an easy ride in the first half, though, as England in particular struggled for cohesion.
Mbouli made one good diving save to keep out a Frank Lampard shot but with Wayne Rooney isolated and the passing poor throughout the team, it was a rare moment of excitement.
Algeria were the crisper passers and had more movement, with Karim Ziani a constant threat on the left.
They too, however, struggled to find the killer final pass.
There was little change in the second half with England’s Premier League ambassadors delivering some terrible passing, though they tightened up at the back and gradually began to control the game in terms of possession.
Emile Heskey and Steven Gerrard were both denied by Mbouli while Jermain Defoe came on to add some pace up front, but little really changed.
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 for even a shot on goal.—Reuters
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