barry-yebda-f-100618

England's Gareth Barry, left, fights for the ball with Algeria's Hassan Yebda. ((Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images))

Algeria held England to a 0-0 draw Friday and left one of the FIFA World Cup favourites on the brink of elimination with one game to go in the first round.

With a sullen Wayne Rooney scoreless for a seventh straight match, England lacked heart and inspiration, struggling throughout against an opponent fighting to avoid becoming the first to be eliminated from the World Cup.

"We weren't aggressive enough," England captain Steven Gerrard said. "We never had the cutting edge."

Coach Fabio Capello was aghast at what he saw.

"This game I didn't see the spirit of the team," he said. "This is not the England that I know."

The Italian acknowledged that many players had fallen victim to World Cup pressure.

"It is incredible, the mistakes of the players. When you are at the ball, when you control the ball, when you have easy passes — they miss, everything. This is incredible for the level of the England players," he said.

The result set up a Group C finale on Wednesday with England taking on Slovenia and the United States playing Algeria. Slovenia leads the group with four points, followed by England and the United States with two each. Algeria has one point.

"We got no excuses," Gerrard said. "We got to go and win the last game."

Even Algeria coach Rabah Saadane was surprised at England's poor performance.

"I thought they would be better," Saadane said. "They were not at their best."

Green benched

England coach Fabio Capello benched bungling goalkeeper Robert Green and brought back 39-year-old David James to boost confidence in the defence. With the return of defensive midfielder Gareth Barry, others would be unleashed to provide offensive sparkle against a tournament outsider.

But England still produced its second dud in as many games. Rooney, touted as one of the World Cup's biggest stars, struggled again and failed to muscle his way past the sturdy Algerian defence.

"Rooney didn't play like Rooney," Capello said.

Algeria coach Rabah Saadane also switched his goalkeeper, putting in Rais M'bohi after Fawzi Chaouchi had made a blunder in the opening loss to Slovenia.

Algeria, fighting for World Cup survival, never dug in defensively like so many underdogs but took the game to England and looked good during the first half and good enough afterward.

Instead of Rooney, it was Karim Ziani who thrilled the crowd with his good moves.

"We played our game of short passes and skills," Saadane said. "England didn't have its day."

Algeria, fighting for World Cup survival, never dug in defensively like so many underdogs but took the game to England and looked good during the first half and good enough afterward.

Instead of Rooney, it was Karim Ziani who thrilled the crowd with his good moves.

Princes Harry, William look on

High in the stands, Britain's princes Harry and William were looking on glumly despite being surrounded by almost nothing but England fans.

It was clear England was playing effectively a home game at the Green Point Stadium when tens of thousands among the crowd of belted out "God Save the Queen." Shouts of "England, England" even drowned out the vuvuzelas.

And on a day when Serbia already upset Germany 1-0 and tiny Slovenia contained the United States 2-2, Algeria produced a stunner of its own.

It took more than a half hour for England to get a shot on goal, as Emile Heskey and Rooney proved to be an inefficient partnership.

It was left to the midfielders yet again and Frank Lampard had the best chance when he received the ball unmarked about 12 yards from goal after Algeria failed to clear a cross from Glen Johnson.

But Lampard's weak left-footed shot was well saved by M'bohi.

Even under pressure, the Algerians stayed disciplined at the back and didn't leave any holes for cheap chances. England, meanwhile, waded through a collective off-day.

They even could not exploit some of the rare defensive Algerian lapses. In the 69th minute, a cross from Heskey came off a defender but careened just over the bar.

At the back, Jamie Carragher earned his second yellow in as many matches for a foul on Hassen Yebda in the 58th and will miss the group decider on Wednesday.

England did build pressure closer to the end, but when nothing went its way, neither did luck, as substitute Jermain Defoe had a late shot that went over.

In the end, even Lampard was roundly booed by the crowd.