CAPE TOWN: 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 World Cup group game.
Fabio Capello’s team, under the cosh already 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.
It was a poor performance from Capello’s team with players looking tired and devoid of spark.
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.
Skipper Steven 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 the heart of Jamie Carragher, playing in place of the injured Ledley King, would have been pumping even harder after his fluffed clearance had to be stopped by James.
England couldn’t get going and Algeria was seeing 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.
England were held to a goalless draw by Algeria to leave their World Cup qualification hanging on the final match against Slovenia.