Well Fabio Capello's men have just completed their second game of this World Cup campaign and lets just say it hasn't exactly been a bundle of laughs. The 1-1 draw last Saturday against the USA was disappointing, but not a complete waste of time. We all knew America were going to be no pushovers, and despite Rob Green's nightmare moment, the game wasn't too bad. However, after tonight's depressing match against Algeria, I am downright annoyed and only French football fans could possibly feel any worse. Oh, and not forgetting the England fans that are actually in South Africa, having paid hundreds of pounds to watch that crap.
Tonight was the chance for England to make a statement of intent to the rest of the competition; to show the world that we are legitimate contenders. Algeria came into the game in pretty poor form, having lost 5 of their last 6 games and only scoring 1 goal, which was a penalty, so nobody expected them to give England much trouble. But Algeria obviously didn't get the memo as they ran rings around England throughout most of the first 45 minutes. The Algerians were dangerous, they looked creative and had pace and flair in abundance. Obviously their lack of skill and talent showed, as they consistently made mistakes over the course of the game, but at least they were trying to get the ball down and attack. England had nothing, absolutely nothing. Apart from a 5-10 minute spell towards the end of the first half, where we managed to fashion a few decent chances, England were toothless in attack and couldn't keep hold of the ball at all. The second half wasn't much better, it was in fact arguably a lot worse! As the England team made their way onto the pitch after half time, you knew Capello had given them a roasting in the locker room; they had to play much better, but of course they did not.
Throughout the second half it looked more and more likely that the game would end in a draw, or worse, Algeria would steal a goal on the break or from a set-piece. England kept giving the ball away, were slow in their build up, and the Algerian pressure disrupted any decent moves the English side could create. To be fair the referee did not help matters, as he constantly disrupted the flow of play with his need to blow the whistle for the smallest of fouls. However England can have no excuses at all. They were terrible tonight and deserved to be booed off at the final whistle.
Gerrard looked very poor in midfield, a shadow of the player he was against the USA where he looked sharp and similar to how he plays for Liverpool. Lampard was equally ineffective, and never really looked a threat, even when he had a chance to score towards the end of the first half. Gareth Barry was alright, if not a bit rusty which was to be expected really considering the time he's missed. Aaron Lennon was useless, as was SWP, both of the wingers never receiving much of the ball and normally fell over when they did. Terry was shaky all night and nearly gifted Algeria a goal with a shocking back-pass to David James (who was easily the best England player on the pitch - not that he had much to do!). Heskey didn't enjoy the success he experienced against the USA, and was his usual mediocre self which most fans expect when they see "Emile Heskey" on the team sheet. I still don't understand why he was even taken to South Africa, especially when Capello said he chooses players based on their form. Darren Bent (who I'm not really a fan of) would have been the natural choice in this case, having had a great season with Sunderland, yet Capello leaves him out of the squad and takes Heskey instead. Which leads me onto Wayne Rooney...
Now being an Arsenal fan, I am no admirer of young Wayne. In fact, most of the year I despise the hairy scouse Shrek lookalike. However, after the season he has just had for United, where he was simply unstoppable, I begrudgingly accepted that Rooney had finally realised his potential and become the best striker in the world not named Messi. Naturally, England's hopes of winning the World Cup pretty much rested on his shoulders, and he finally looked the player to lead us to victory, as surely he would tear apart the meagre defences of Algeria, Slovenia and the United States. But this has not been the case. Not even close. Against the USA, Wayne was quiet and ineffectual, never getting into the game and was left out of most of England's promising moves. Tonight he was downright awful, probably one of the worst performances in an England shirt I have ever had the displeasure to witness. Rooney struggled to control the ball for the entire match and constantly made the wrong move and decision when he actually could get it under his control. He looked uninspired, miserable, and never even close to threatening the Algerian defence, who coped with him throughout the 90 minutes with alarming ease. Apparently when he left the pitch, reporters heard him say it was "nice to see your own fans booing you". Well you didn't really give them anything to cheer for did you Wayne?
So Slovenia are our next opponents, who looked very good today against the the USA, and really should have won that game, before the US made a terrific comeback. After tonight's letdown Capello has a lot of work to do, and some hard decisions to make ahead of the must win game on Wednesday. In my opinion its about time he used Joe Cole, as there was really no point in taking him and giving him the number 11 shirt if Capello has no intention of playing him. I think a more attacking team needs to be chosen for the Slovenia match, and after his shocker tonight I would even consider dropping Rooney in favour of a Crouch and Defoe partnership up front, who have played together at club level for some time now, at Portsmouth and Spurs.
Whatever Capello decides, England fans expect a lot better than what we received tonight and we must salvage something from what has been a pretty dour tournament so far. I'll be watching on Wednesday, hoping for a win of course. If we lose, well I might consider moving to Slovenia and supporting a proper football team. We'll just have to wait until then...
Thanks for reading.