CAPE TOWN: England face Algeria on Friday with bigger issues at stake than whether they can beat the north Africans to regain control of World Cup Group C.
If Fabio Capello’s team have any ambitions of advancing beyond their usual quarter-final terminus then beating Algeria, who lost 1-0 to Slovenia in their opener, must be a given.
England have never lost to African opposition but their manager must still answer the many questions swirling around his team and find a way to get his forwards scoring goals.
With top spot in the group likely to be decided on goal difference, and the runners-up set to face Germany in the second round, England need a big win to put them back on course for an easier last 16 meeting with Ghana, Serbia or Australia.
Their opening 1-1 draw with a well-organised United States team, particularly seen in the context of so many other major nations’ stuttering starts, was not a terrible result.
But while Franz Beckenbauer’s claim that England have “gone backwards into the bad old days of kick and rush” seems harsh, their Italian manager does have to get his players back to the constructive approach that saw them cruise through qualifying.
Already missing injured captain Rio Ferdinand, England are now without his replacement Ledley King for Friday’s game—and possibly the tournament—with Jamie Carragher set to step in.
He came off the bench to replace King at halftime against the U.S. and formed a vocal, tough-tackling but far-from-pacy centre back partnership with former England captain John Terry.
Behind them Capello seems likely to keep faith with goalkeeper Robert Green, whose blunder handed Clint Dempsey the Americans’ equaliser—though David James could come in.
The manager will be delighted to be able to recall Gareth Barry, one of his favourites, to a holding role in midfield, pushing Steven Gerrard out to the left with licence to attack.
Up front, for all Wayne Rooney’s undoubted talents, he has not scored an international goal since last September, while Emile Heskey’s return of seven in 59 games tells its own story.
Peter Crouch, who came on as a substitute against the U.S., said that Capello was emphasising the positives.
“He told us he saw things in the first game that were encouraging and he has taken them and told us we should still believe in ourselves and what we are doing,” said the tall striker with an international return of 21 goals in 39 games.
“Hopefully, we will go on and do a lot better from now on,” he added. “We all know that and we have to make sure we get it right, starting against Algeria.”
Algeria coach Rabah Saadane is also set to stand behind his keeper Faouzi Chaouchi, after he allowed a speculative shot by Robert Koren to squeeze past him, giving Slovenia the points.
Having lost the match they targeted as their best chance for a win, Algeria are bracing themselves for a tough onslaught.
“They (England) are a super team, as I’ve said, among the favourites,” said Saadane. “It’s going to be a very, very difficult match for us but we have nothing to lose.”
Saadane is without Abdelkader Ghezzal, suspended for a red card after coming off the bench in the opener, but said he does not plan widespread changes, with 24-year-old midfielder Adlane Guedioura a possible starter to add dynamism going forward.
BDST: 1300hrs, June 17, 2010