England delivers one of its worst tournament performances for years; USA draws with Slovenia.
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 World Cup qualification hanging on the final matches.
However, any repeat of their ragged, disorganised error-strewn display in Green Point stadium is unlikely to be enough to get them past Slovenia in their final game 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, who were booed off the pitch by their own fans, also have two points with the north Africans on one.
England's final game against Slovenia is in Port Elizabeth while Algeria take on the United States in Pretoria, both on June 23. If England win their last match they would go through, still possibly as group winners. A high-scoring draw could also be enough if the other game finished level.
Neither of those outcomes looked likely on Friday as from the first minute to the last, all over the pitch, they were awful.
A dejected-looking captain Steven Gerrard said there were no excuses.
"We know the job we've got to go and do, we have got to win the last game which adds more pressure," he said.
"We weren't aggressive enough, we never won the ball back early enough, we never had the cutting edge in the final third."
Coach Fabio Capello said: "I can change the tactics, I will try to do something different. It won't be difficult to lift them before Slovenia. They know what they have to do.
"We still have to play another game and we hope that will be happier. I don't know if it's pressure or we're not in a good moment. We lost too many balls, it's not the same team I know. I didn't see the spirit of the team."
The match was a huge disappointment for the Cape Town fans, who have now witnessed three uninspired draws featuring three of the biggest teams in the game after Italy and France faltered.
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.
Mbouli made one good diving save to keep out a Frank Lampard shot but with Wayne Rooney isolated and England struggling for any sort of cohesion, it was a rare moment of excitement.
Algeria were the crisper passers and had more movement but they too struggled to find the killer final pass.
The same dire fare was served up in the second half and though Emile Heskey and Gerrard were both denied by Mbouli and substitute Jermain Defoe lashed a late shot over the bar it was precious little, far too late.
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 to avoid a first-round exit.
Algeria, buoyed by how easily the coped with the cream of the Premier League, will now fancy their chances of upsetting the U.S. to go through themselves.
"I said we'd improve as time went by and that is what is happening and we are also growing in confidence and that is very important," said their coach Rabah Saadane.
"The situation in the group is still open for every team to qualify."
Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek and his players were left rueing a missed opportunity to reach the second round of the World Cup on Friday after throwing away a two-goal lead in a 2-2 Group C draw with the United States.
The Slovenians appeared to be heading for a berth in the last 16 after goals by Valter Birsa and Zlatan Ljubijankic gave them a 2-0 lead in the first period but ran out of steam and lost concentration under fierce U.S. pressure in the second.
"We played a fantastic first half but the goal we conceded straight after the break rattled us and we never recovered from it," Kek told a news conference after the pulsating clash.
"It was a lapse in concentration after which we lost our focus and allowed them back into the match."
"We are not thinking about the last group game against England right now because we have to recover physically and mentally from a tough battle."
Slovenia right back Miso Brecko added: "We are very disappointed because we had a great chance to secure a berth in the knockout stage and we didn't because we weren't aggressive enough in the second half."
"It was like we had a mental block after the interval, we got only a point from a match we should have won and we have to live with it now.
"It wasn't our intention to sit back on a 2-0 lead but, wishing to hold on to that precious advantage, we dropped back far too much and allowed them to pin us into our own half."
The U.S. had a goal controversially disallowed in the closing stages after they equalized and Slovenia center back Bostjan Cesar conceded they were lucky to avoid defeat.
"I didn't see the foul but we are glad the goal didn't stand and in the end we were a bit fortunate to get a draw, having spilled a two-goal lead," he said.
"But the referee also tolerated some rough tackling from the United States right from the kick off so we can also complain.
"Passage to the last 16 is still in our hands. England will start as the favorites against us but they are a playable team, we can stand our ground against them."
England play Slovenia in Port Elizabeth next Wednesday. (Reuters)
luckily Al Jazerra failure to show the game without problems meant i missed half of this miserable effort. When is Al Jaz going to make a serious statement about this and give us our money back? who will they blame next for being unable to get a TV picture to my villa which is less than 5 miles from there office? im waiting for a statement blaming Aliens, or maybe the wrong type of sand or more likely its Israels fault. maybe even BP should get the blame. its a disgrace Qatar has this fantasy about holding the World Cup (as likely as it is of seeing the Unicorns they have in the Ad for the 2022 bid) they are not even able to show it on TV!
of course, they had to give the game in favor of Algeria. since it was unbelievable that England should lose to Algeria, they settled for a draw. it was all a matter of diplomacy. England (the country) is in talks with Algeria (the country) to buy natural gas from the latter. battering the Algerian soccer team would certainly put a sour note on the talks. the result of the game explains itself. :)) read the full analysis/story here: http://www.dailymarkets.com/economy/2010/06/18/england-should-lose-to-algeria-to-secure-gas-supplies/ -- langyaw