CAPE TOWN, June 18 – A woeful England failed to find the killer touch in a disappointing 0-0 draw with Algeria on Friday, putting them under huge pressure to beat Slovenia in their final group game and stay alive in the World Cup.
Fabio Capello’s team, already under the cosh after their much-criticised 1-1 opener against the United States, struggled to find any rhythm and gave the ball away far too easily, doing little to silence their detractors.
With the United States and Slovenia drawing 2-2 earlier, Group C is finely poised. Slovenia have four points, with England and the USA on two and Algeria with one.
"This is not the team I recognise from training or from qualifying," said Capello.
"We missed too many passes, lost too many balls. It was not a good game. We have to do better. We have another game to play. It’s our last chance to continue in the tournament. The players know what they have to do."
It was a poor performance from Capello’s team with players looking tired and devoid of spark and captain Steven Gerrard made no excuses.
"We’re not happy with the performance, we need more if we want to stay in this tournament to the later stages, we need to improve," Gerrard said.
"We weren’t good enough in the final third to get the breakthrough.
"We know the job we’ve got to do, we’ve got to go and win the last game and that adds more pressure, but to play at this level you’ve got to handle it, you’ve got to play under pressure."
Striker Wayne Rooney showed his frustration as he trudged off the field to the jeers of disgruntled England supporters, saying to a TV camera: "It’s nice to see your own fans booing you."
The big news ahead of the game was the axing of West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green after his blunder against the USA with veteran David James taking over.
Gareth Barry also returned from an ankle injury, but he struggled and was largely ineffective.
Algeria coach Rabah Saadane said he was expecting better from England.
"I don’t know what happened to them," he said. "We could have won and so could England. Both had opportunities.
"I think it was a match where everyone tried as much as they could and it’s a pity it was a draw and a goalless draw at that."
Gerrard was the first to trouble the Algerians with a cross-cum-shot that ‘keeper M’bohi Rais Ouheb, prefered to Faouzi Chaouchi after their 1-0 loss to Slovenia, had to jump high to collect.
James got into the game on 11 minutes when he punched clear a looping cross on his goal line, not entirely convincingly but good enough to avert the danger.
Some of the players were nervy and Jamie Carragher’s heart would have been pumping even harder after his fluffed clearance had to be stopped by James.
England couldn’t get going and Algeria saw plenty of the ball. It was clear that Capello, celebrating his 64th birthday, was none too pleased, angrily pacing the dugout.
James was tested again when his Portsmouth teammate Nadir Belhadj whipped in a corner under the England bar, claiming it impressively this time under pressure from two Algerians.
England finally started to wake up and Gerrard got a shot on target near the half-hour mark before Frank Lampard had a great chance, collecting the ball in the box after some nice build-up play.
He unleashed a left-footed drive but the keeper saved.
Capello would have given them a piece of his mind in the dressing room but they didn’t look much better when they came out, with a scrappy start to the second-half.
Gerrard and Lampard sparked some interest when they combined nicely but the Liverpool star’s cross was awful, straight to the feet of an opponent when he had three players in the box.
To make matters worse Carragher picked up a yellow card — his second of the tournament — meaning he is out of the Slovenia match.
The cumbersome Heskey, meanwhile, should have done better inside the penalty area with 18 minutes left but his shot was deflected over for a corner.
In a last role of the dice, Capello brought on Shaun Wright-Philipps for Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe for Heskey and Peter Crouch for Barry, but despite picking up the pace the breakthrough remained elusive.