Algeria earned a scoreless draw against England at the FIFA World Cup on Friday in Cape Town, a result that will lead to a tension-filled and dramatic final day of play in Group C.
The main storyline
The Three Lions are roaring no more after being de-clawed by the Desert Foxes.
Heralded as the one of the pre-tournament favourites before a ball was even kicked in South Africa, England's World Cup campaign now hangs in the balance.
It raises several important questions:
- How did a team of millionaire Premiership stars, including Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, struggle to retain possession and be outplayed by the modest side from northern Africa?
- How is it that Italian Fabio Capello, credited for turning around England after taking over the coaching reins, will now face the inevitable deluge of second-guessing from English reporters after this tame display?
- How did it get to this point, where England is now in real danger of crashing out of the competition in the first round?
- How is it that the former world champions are not running away with the lead in a group many expected they would win with ease?
Not even a trio of changes could awake the Three Lions from their American hangover.
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Showing all the ruthlessness of a mafia boss, Don Fabio yanked Robert Green from the starting lineup after his goalkeeping gaffe in England's 1-1 draw against the United States. Other changes saw midfielder Gareth Barry replace James Milner, and Jamie Carragher start in place of injured defender Ledley King.
The introduction of Barry solidified the English back line, but Capello would have been well-advised to start Jermaine Defoe upfront to partner Rooney, instead of the lumbering Emile Heskey.
Better efforts must also be demanded of Frank Lampard. Considered the engine room of the midfield, the Chelsea star put in another ponderous performance — as did Rooney and Gerrard — leaving the English attack limp and lifeless.
Credit must be given to Algeria, who stroked the ball around with confidence and called the tune for larges stretches of the game, making it hard for the English to assert themselves. James was never really tested in the England net, but the Algerians looked dangerous going forward, especially down the flanks.
What this result means
Slovenia leads Group B with four points, ahead of England and the U.S. (two points apiece) and Algeria (one point).
Both England and Algeria need to win their final games of the group stage to advance to the round of 16.
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Man of the match
Defender Madjid Bougherra was a giant among men, quarterbacking a tight Algerian back line that contained the likes of Rooney and his Premiership cohorts.
Save of the match
Backup goalkeeper Rais M'bohi, playing in place of the injured Faouzi Chaouchi, made a fantastic stop on Lampard in the 33rd minute, denying the Chelsea midfielder on England's only scoring chance of note.
The English perspective
"We weren't aggressive enough. We never had the cutting edge." — captain Steven Gerrard
The Algerian perspective
"I thought they would be better. They were not at their best." — coach Rabah Saadane
England takes on Slovenia in Port Elizabeth on June 23 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET), while Algeria meets the U.S. same day in Pretoria (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET).