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Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Bumper Edition!

Winners

Germany
Total destruction and total football. All four goals were of supreme quality as was the build-up play in general, featuring flicks and tricks normally associated with Brazil. What was particularly impressive was the patience of the Germans. The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw them very much on the backfoot, fending off a rejuvenated England. Ultimately they played possum and picked their moment before delivering knockout punches to the opposition.
While England have themselves to blame for giving so much room and respect to their old enemy, the Germans earned their praise by playing outstanding football and by being three or four steps ahead of their opponent at every turn. In the end 4-1 was somewhat respectable considering Joachim Low’s men took their foot off the pedal during the final stretch and were content to pass the ball around.
If Germany can match this performance for the remainder of the competition then they must be considered favourites, however it is doubtful that they will have an easier task than this ahead of them.
Mesut Özil

A star is born.
Argentina

Benefitted from a poor decision to kick things off before putting Mexico to the sword as expected. One wonders what they would do with the space England afforded the Germans.
Javier Hernández

Mexico are going home but the young striker has given Alex Ferguson something to think about.
Uruguay

Few predicted they would have gotten this far and the South Americans will fancy themselves to at least make the semi-finals. It’s a pleasure to see the inaugural tournament winners play with such confidence and composure in 2010.
Luis Suárez
Finally coming good after a quiet start, the 23-year-old Ajax forward won the game with a goal worthy of winning the tournament, made all the more emphatic by being framed by the lashing rain.
Ghana

The sole remaining African team kept their heads and were worthy victors. It was a shame to see time-wasting and play-acting tactics employed at the end but that’s the modern game for you.
Brazil & Portugal

Did what they had to do, boring everyone to death in the process.

Losers

England


But will they learn anything from it? Not likely. While they will rightly feel aggrieved following Lampard’s “goal that never was”, England had plenty of opportunities to level things and failed to take them. It’s the oldest cliché in the book that goals change games and 2-2 certainly makes things much more balanced, but hypothetical arguments are a waste of time when you are outplayed and outclassed by a superior side, as England unquestionably were.
Since the opening game these players have not played together. In this game they committed footballing suicide by repeatedly straying from their positions, thus giving the Germans the space they needed to duly tear England apart.
Fabio Capello
While the F.A.’s appointed talking head was quick to assure gathered journalists that Capello’s contract runs until 2012, his body language and veiled statements painted a different picture. The truth is that should Capello get his marching orders, he’s better off for it. Not only shall he benefit financially but why would a man of his pedigree wish to be denigrated by a myopic media and idiotic fanbase that place the blame of England’s failure directly at his door?
The reality is that the England job is a poisoned chalice for any manager. How does one get the best out of a team that fails to play like one? In the aftermath of their humiliation, the majority of fingers are being pointed at the Italian. This is no surprise and of course the manager must accept responsibility (and Capello has) but the real questions must be asked of a collection of selfish individuals who refused to follow their orders and were mauled because of it.
Wayne Rooney
It really is unfair to single out one English player considering they were all abject but considering Rooney was touted as the man to carry the hopes of a nation on his broad shoulders and deliver glory only for him to fail to turn up in any of the four games played, it’s a pretty poor ending to a story laced with optimism, hope and unrealistic hyperbole.
Frank Lampard
A shame to see one of the only players to emerge with any semblance of credit piss it all away by proclaiming that “Nobody can tell me that Germany were much better than us. Not 4-1 better.”
Sorry Frank but even Stevie Wonder can tell you that.
Gabriel Heinze

The ex-Manchester United defender was most certainly not ready for his close-up.
Linesmen

Both of Sunday’s games featured terrible officiating from the men at the side of the pitch. England will debate long into the night about Lampard’s Pedro Mendes-esque “goal” while Carlos Tevez was clearly offside for Argentina’s first goal. The ugly debate about goal-line technology has reared its head once again while FIFA remain stubborn. Perhaps a more pertinent question would be why FIFA didn’t employ the additional goal-line officials that worked so well in the Europa League?
USA
Ran out of comebacks. Their admirable team spirit and work ethic masked a worrying lack of depth. Outside of Donovan, Dempsey and Howard the Americans lack leaders and special players. They simply have not progressed enough since the previous World Cup (where incidentally they also fell at the feet of the Ghanaians) and despite the profile of “soccer” rising in the country, the team hasn’t evolved enough.
South Korea

Captain Ji-Sung Park wanted a repeat of their semi-final charge of 2002 but it wasn’t to be.
Optimists
Gary Linker claimed before Brazil/Portugal that anything less than a 4-4 scoreline would give license payers the right to complain. Considering the stage of the competition and what was needed from both teams it was silly to expect anything other than what we got.
Mick McCarthy

Like the French, poor Mick just doesn’t want to be there. Greeting the additional five minutes at the end of the game with howls of derision, Mick exclaimed “Get them off! It’s been awful!”. Poor chap.
Cheats
Friday saw a splurge of poor sportsmanship. The Brazil/Portugal snoozefest saw Duda and Tiago booked for ordering the referee to send a player off and diving respectively while Fernando Torres continued to endear himself to everyone other than Liverpool fans by pulling off the most embarrassing dive seen on a football pitch since Alberto Gilardino took the piss against Celtic in the Champions League a couple of years ago.
Perhaps Torres belongs in the winners column as his pathetic actions got Chile’s Marco Estrada sent off but El Nino would later tweak his ankle and his game would end in the 54th minute. It’s been a poor showing from the Liverpool striker thus far, and he will know it.

Germany rout sorry England

Germany 4-1 England


‘Das neue Deutschland’, the latest incarnation of the German national team routed Fabio Capello’s England 4-1 in Bloemfontein. Two early goals from Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski gave Jogi Löw’s young squad the advantage before Matthew Upson’s header brought England back into the game. Moments later Frank Lampard appeared to have scored a spectacular equaliser. In what will surely rank as one of the most controversial refereeing decisions in the history of the tournament, neither referee Jorge Larrionda nor his assistants noticed the ball cross the goalline. After the break Thomas Müller was the beneficiary of two superb counterattacks from Germany, notching a brace and ending all hopes of an English revival.

Germany started the game at a frantic pace. Mesut Özil, the World Cup’s outstanding player to date, found himself through on David James’ goal after his supreme first touch took him past Ashley Cole. Özil was denied by the feet of James, the first of many impressive saves from the Portsmouth goalkeeper.

James was powerless to prevent Germany’s opener in the twentieth minute, however. A long goalkick from Manuel Neuer reached Miroslav Klose following poor defending from John Terry and Matthew Upson, who allowed the ball to bounce for the Bayern München striker. Klose netted his fiftieth goal for Germany, holding off the challenge from Upson and stretching to prod the ball past David James. It was the archetypical ‘Route One’ goal, completely the opposite of Joachim Löw’s favoured method, but Miroslav Klose is peerless in such situations.

The goal prompted a prolonged period of German pressure. Klose almost scored his second after remarkable build-up play from Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller. The Polish-born striker took the wrong approach, firing his low shot straight at the goalkeeper. Just minutes later, Lukas Podolski made no such mistake. Klose chipped through for Thomas Müller who, instead of taking the shot himself, clipped across the goalmouth for Podolski. The Köln striker threaded his shot from an acute angle through the legs of David James, giving Germany a deserved two goal advantage.

England were shellshocked. The Three Lions had failed to impress in the Group Stage but were in the midst of their worst performance under the stewardship of Fabio Capello. Despite their failings, England found themselves back in the match just eight minutes before half-time. A quickly taken corner was played short to Steven Gerrard. The England captain crossed high into the penalty area where Matthew Upson rose to glance a header past the poorly positioned Manuel Neuer. The goal reenergised England, who for the first time seemed capable of finding a way past a previously unbothered German defence.

They should have had an equaliser. Frank Lampard received the ball just outside the penalty area before turning and half-volleying over the outstretched Neuer. The ball ricocheted off the crossbar and bounced more than a foot behind the line before hitting the bar once more. Fabio Capello had already begun a passionate celebration. Jorge Larrionda and his assistants had failed to give the goal. A cacophony of boos reverberated around Bloemfontein with good reason. Forty-four years had passed since Geoff Hurst’s controversial effort was adjudged to have crossed the line at Wembley, but revenge was granted to Germany.

It appeared as if this terrific encounter between two of the world’s most exalted national teams would be overshadowed by the controversy. The outrage persisted throughout halftime and on into the second half until the 64th minute.

England committed players forward for an attacking free-kick, but Frank Lampard’s attempt was blocked by the wall allowing Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger to break forward at breathtaking pace. Schweinsteiger, a mazy winger until two seasons ago, embarked on a staggeringly long run into the English half before laying the ball into the path of Müller. The Bayern München forward, who had only begun his professional career with the Munich club in 2009, was enjoying an astonishing performance and crashed the ball past David James to effectively end the game as a contest.

It soon became a rout, Müller again capitalising on a breakaway. Mesut Özil had been having his quietest game of the tournament thusfar but was able to muster another dash forward. He squared the ball for his former Under-21 teammate Müller, who finished superbly.

England failed to mount a sincere threat after the fourth goal. Wayne Rooney’s poor record in international tournaments continued. The Manchester United striker is one of the world’s most treasured footballers but his performances in this World Cup have been bereft of the energy, touch, movement or precision that characterise his displays for his club.

The final whistle brought the curtain down on an abject failure for England. For Germany, however, what was considered a bright future has become an exciting present. The DFB’s (German Football Association) policy of developing youth coaches and involving players from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds has been inspired. Under the guidance of Jogi Löw, this German team is sure to succeed at international tournaments into the next decade.

The young achievers’ reward for their dominant victory is a place in the Quarter Finals, where they will face the winners of Argentina versus Mexico. Löw himself has stated that he does not expect to win the 2010 World Cup but the possibility is there. With confidence surely rising this German team may not have completed their experimental venture yet.

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 13

Winners


England

Scored early and proceeded to defend their lead. Critics would call it suffocating the opposition and negative football while fans and sympathisers would refer to bravery and necessity. In reality it was a little bit of both, but the end result sees England through to the last sixteen, and the preceding results largely cast aside.

Fabio Capello’s post-match interview painted the picture of an emphatic Three Lions victory but the reality is somewhat different. While this was certainly an improvement for England, it was far from convincing. Slovenia barely turned up while Capello’s men were content to cancel out any opposing threat and retain their slim lead.

Following a week of embarrassment, mutiny and knee-jerk pessimism, England will be delighted to bring some positivity to their camp, but the threat of the old enemy awaits them on Sunday, and the Germans, like sharks, will smell blood in the water.

James Milner

Answered his critics by setting up the decisive goal and lived up to the task presented to him. Not  especially outstanding but solid, which was enough on this occasion.

USA

It would probably have been brought to court had the Americans not gone through. As it turned out they end up top of the group and will avoid Germany in the second round. It was nearly a very different story but for Landon Donovan’s late rescue.

Woodwork smashed, open goals missed and another perfectly valid goal disallowed, it seemed luck was against the good ol’ US of A, but good things come to those who wait and while Donovan’s winner was very much a final act twist, it was no less deserved. The resulting pile-up personified the team spirit that has been present throughout, and their presence in the final sixteen is very much welcome.

Landon Donovan

One wonders where the Americans would be without the invention and determination of the man they affectionately refer to as “LD”. While he may have faltered when previously employed in Europe, his brief stint at Everton at the close of last season, combined with his predatory prowess at South Africa 2010 has showed that Donovan has matured and developed into an exceptional footballer, capable of winning big games. His tears in the post-match interview were as genuine as his attitude throughout.

Germany

While their opponents put up a decent fight, the Germans had the edge. It’s been a fairly interesting campaign thus far for Joachim Lowe’s young team. The initial demolition of Australia sent everyone running scared, until Serbia got lucky and exposed weaknesses in the process. The victory over Ghana wasn’t convincing enough to cement Germany as unstoppable, but they should fancy themselves against England, who have had plenty of problems of their own. It remains to be seen just how far this youthful team can go, but the early signs are promising.

The ghosts of Bierhoff and Ballack do not seem to hang over the team and as such an attacking threat is ever present. It seems instinctual to associate Germany with rigid and dull football but it has anything but so far. Hopefully it shall continue.

Ghana

While they may have gotten lucky, they showed enough spirit and conviction to deserve their spot in the second round.

Losers


Wayne Rooney

Showed signs of improvement but still way off his best. His frustration was intensified when the unthinkable happened and Fabio Capello substituted him for Joe Cole.

Slovenia

Failed to turn up for their most important game.

Samir Handanovic and Lounes Gaouaoui

Two goalkeepers who really don’t deserve to be going home.

Jozy Altidore

Sleepless nights ahead for the American striker following the miss of the tournament.

Mark Lawrenson and anyone who had the misfortunate to listen to him

Awful. Just awful. It’s hardly a new and groundbreaking observation but seriously, Lawro has to be the worst commentator/analyst/pundit in the business. From his disgraceful bias to his painfully unfunny one-liners, I wanted to stick large knives through my eardrums the more he bleated on. Vuvuzelas are more appealing.

England qualify as runners up following defeat of Slovenia

England 1-0 Slovenia

England qualified for the Round of 16 with a 1-0 victory over Slovenia. However, the United States’ late goal against Algeria means that England finish as runners up and potentially face a difficult Second Round game against Germany in Bloemfontein.

England came into today’s game knowing that they needed to win to secure passage from a group which had been taken too lightly by England.

Both sides started edgily. There were some poor defensive clearances from Glen Johnson, Matthew Upson for England and Cesar for Slovenia.

England were looking very nervous in the opening minutes. John Terry’s backpass giving Matthew Upson a moment of distress.

Slovenia, despite the unprecedentedly high stakes, were the brighter side in the opening ten minutes. Valter Birsa, Slovenia’s standout performer in the tournament, embarked on a series of mazy runs into the England half while his teammates Jovanovic and Kirm were stringing passes together and causing problems for England’s fullbacks.

England eventually settled. Frank Lampard attempted a free-kick from all of 35 yards. The infamous Jabulani changed direction twice before being secured by Samir Handanovic.

Ljubijankic, of KAA Gent, had a great chance to heap further pressure on Fabio Capello’s unimpressive side but was denied by a terrific saving block by John Terry.

James Milner and Jermain Defoe had been brought into the starting line up by Fabio Capello in place of Aaron Lennon and Emile Heskey. The pair justified their selection by combining to give England the lead. Milner, who had been dropped by Fabio Capello for the 0-0 draw with Algeria, supplying the cross for Jermain Defoe who shinned the ball towards goal. Samir Handanovic had been performing superbly for Slovenia but was unable to keep Defoe’s volley out.

The goal seemed to settle England appeared to settle England’s fragile nerves. As it stood England would progress at the head of the Group C table with the Slovenians scraping through as runners up ahead of the United States who were being held 0-0 by Algeria.

Another cross nearly brought England’s second. Handanovic came a long way to palm the swinging pass away but his parry fell only as far as Frank Lampard. The Chelsea midfielder, who had failed to reproduce his club form for his national side, failed to hit the target.

England were keen to press their advantage. Jermain Defoe’s low shot from just outside the penalty area was blocked by Handanovic. Wayne Rooney collected the loose ball and sent a delicate pass across the penalty area for Steven Gerrard. The England captain was unable to convert, as the Udinese goalkeeper managed to keep the ball from crossing the line.

It appeared that Slovenia were finally succumbing to the pressure of the occassion. The quick passing and movement from their earlier games against Algeria and the United States had deserted them as they struggled to control possession. England continued to threaten towards the end of the half but were unable to add to their tally.

Jermain Defoe had a glorious opportunity to score his second goal within forty seconds of the start of the second half. A quickly taken corner fell to the Tottenham Hotspur striker, but Defoe was only able to flick the ball wide with the outside of his boot.

Despite a dramatic deterioration in their form, Slovenia were still posing a threat to England. A terrific inswinging free-kick from Birsa was fisted away by David James. The slightest touch from the flailing right foot of Jovanovic would surely have leveled the game.

Another good delivery from Birsa was caught by David James as Slovenia began to edge back into the match.

John Terry, whose feeble attempt at instigating a squad revolt against Fabio Capello was rebuked by the former Real Madrid manager, came close from a corner. The Chelsea captain thumped a challenging header at Samir Handanovic from Steven Gerrard’s corner.

Wayne Rooney had yet to impress at the World Cup and was discouragingly out of form again this afternoon. The Manchester United striker, with ample time and space, was one-on-one with Handanovic but his poor control and scuffed shot allowed the goalkeeper to glance his shot onto the post. Rooney was later replaced by fan favourite Joe Cole. England’s talisman trudged off the field looking very much like a player short of confidence and the requisite match fitness to excel at a World Cup.

After Rooney’s dismal failure in front of goal England reverted to the same poor football that had shrouded their displays against the United States and Algeria. Long punts up the field from David James were England’s predominant attacking threat from the sixtieth minute onwards.

Slovenia themselves were relatively unthreatening, each foray into England territory was halted by a wayward pass or a poor control. As the scoreboard in Port Elizabeth ticked towards the ninetieth minute, England seemed desperate to cling on to their lead. Emile Heskey was introduced with the sole purpose of reproducing his lumbering attack-quashing form in the defensive third.

Slovenia sent more crosses into the England penalty area but were denied by Matthew Upson and David James, England hung on to secure safe passage to the last sixteen. The players and coaching staff stormed the pitch where excited celebrations followed a n unimpressive victory over a mediocre opponent.

If England are to reach the final, as their optimistic manager predicts, they will need drastic improvement in terms of ball retention and passing speed. As England’s players huddled on the pitch, news filtered through from Pretoria that Landon Donovan had rescued the United States with a stoppage time winner. The goal has severe implications for England’s ambitions. The United States now progress as group winners with the Three Lions facing a monumental task in the Second Round, should Germany beat Ghana tonight.

Fabio Capello expressed his pride in his players’ performances after the final whistle and  about how his side played with ‘freedom’. The gushing of a certain gushing member of the British media referred to the win as being ‘more like the England we know.’ If this is the England we can expect in the knockout stages then the quest to end the forty-four year wait for World Cup glory will soon become forty-eight.

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 7

In between offering dry observations on the World Cup and its Winners and Losers, our Dave spends his time drumming for upcoming band After The Explosions, to learn more please visit http://bit.ly/9TW5rL.

Winners

The viewers

As hoped, the second round of group matches has brought with them a palpable sense of excitement, with the Slovenia/USA match in particular arguably producing the best contest of the tournament thus far.

Algeria

Looking nothing like the team that were put to the sword by Ireland a few weeks ago, the Algerians played with ambition and conviction. Unfair critics will accuse them of packing ten behind the ball and suffocating England, but those critics will likely be bitter England fans. In truth, Algeria gave England a game and but for a decent striker things could have been even worse for Fabio Capello’s men.

Serbia

Rode their luck and won ugly, tearing Group D wide open in the process.

Nemanja Vidic

Following his recent escape in the Carling Cup final and today’s Superman impression to concede the penalty; does Vidic have some dirt on referees that keeps him from getting sent off?

Landon Donovan

Carried his team on his shoulders and deserves a better club than L.A. Galaxy. Let’s hope he returns to the Premier League soon.

Losers


England

Ouch. Perhaps the most worrying (and unsurprising) thing about England’s rotten brand of football is their inability to play together as a team. Make no mistake, this is a collection of selfish individuals determined to get their names on the scoresheet and photograph in the paper. By contrast, USA, who every English pundit will tell you are a far inferior team to England, rose above their perceived weaknesses in both their games so far, united as a team to overcome the obstacles that lay before them.

A great football team isn’t necessarily eleven world class players, but eleven men who can operate together in sync and fight for one another. On the basis of their World Cup campaign thus far, England are drowning in a sea of ego, poor tactics and curious team selections. They go into their final game against Slovenia next Wednesday needing to win (or draw depending on how things fare for USA) and should they produce a performance similar to their first three hours of this World Cup, they will be watching the second round from the comfort of their hotel rooms.

Fabio Capello

Not the birthday surprise he would have wanted.

Wayne Rooney

Dismal and anonymous, the “white Pele” stormed off the field mouthing “It’s nice to be booed by your own fans eh?” after the final whistle. While booing your own team is pretty ugly behaviour, the travelling fans will have spent an awful lot of money for the privilege of seeing their country woefully underperform and are perhaps entitled to vent their frustrations.

Alan Hansen

Made a big deal of sarcastically mocking the Slovenia/USA match before a ball was even kicked. Roy Hodgson dared to suggest it would be an entertaining game, cue Hansen and his childish bullshit. Of course, this being BBC, he wasn’t the only pundit to behave like a cretin…

Gary Lineker

“Message to watching Americans; that’s what makes football so special”. Way to take the shine off a great match by being a patronising wanker Gary.

Germany

Quite a contrast to their total football demolition of Australia on Sunday, the Germans suffered their first defeat at the group stages in the World Cup finals since losing to Denmark in 1986. Harshly reduced to ten men in the first half, Sami Khedira saw a goalbound effort cannon back off the crossbar and Lukas Podolski conspired to miss a penalty, rounding off a performance mired in such bad luck that even Mick McCarthy was moved to say that he almost felt sorry for them.

Kazuki Ito

A name that strikes fear into the heart of Pro Evolution Soccer 6 fans everywhere. Innocuous halfway-line challenges punished by straight red cards were par for the course when Kazuki took to the virtual field. In real life however, his legend is looking like it may be eclipsed in South Africa.

Referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco dished out no less than nine yellow cards including one red for the unfortunate Miroslav Klose in a game that was rarely ill-tempered. The Spanish referee has something of a card-happy reputation, having doled out an impressive 11 red cards in 17 La Liga games that he took charge of last seasion. Such a stat makes it all the more mind-boggling that Nemanja Vidic stayed on the pitch following his blatant handball. Speaking of dodgy refereeing decisions…

Koman Coulibaly

The Malian official somehow disallowed what would have been a winning goal for the Americans. The offence? Apparently by allowing themselves to be manhandled by the Slovenian defence they committed a foul. Poor show. See what you think…

Miroslav Klose

Even harsher than the red card Tim Cahill suffered when he lined up against Klose on Sunday.

Lukas Podolski

Having scored in the first game, Podolski was in prime position to further silence his critics when he stepped up to take a routine spot kick. Naturally his weak effort was saved.

Drawers

USA

And so USA continue to write their World Cup story in the manner in which they started. A terrible start followed by an impressive fightback to level things in a game that they could have won. Landon Donovan’s goal early in the second half was a stunning individual effort made all the more amusing by the sight of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic recoiling in terror as the ball rocketed towards his face.

Daddy’s boy Michael Bradley sealed an impressive comeback and but for the efforts of the referee, the Americans would have been in a much more comfortable position come the final whistle. As it stands, they still have a chance to progress, but there could be some last minute melodrama. Fitting.

Slovenia

A case can be made for them to reside in the Winners column despite the draw, but the reality is that following an unlikely lead, Slovenia threw away a glorious opportunity to seal qualification into the next round. They very well may progress but it’s now a much more difficult prospect than it could have been.

England held to shock draw by Algeria

A dissapointing English side were held to a 0-0 draw by Algeria tonight in the Green Point stadium in Cape Town.

England had the majority of possession but weren’t able to find a goal, despite hurling players forward throughout the match.

A cagey opening ten minutes saw relatively few clear chances for either side.

David James was forced to punch away an Algerian cross, but his goal was never really threatened.

Algeria enjoyed large swathes of posession within the first twenty minutes as Karim Ziani and Hassan Yebda made dangerous incursions into the English third of the pitch.

On twenty-three minutes, Algeria forced a corner after some sustained pressure. James was forced to claim the high ball awkwardly to prevent Halliche getting a shot on goal.

Despite all their endeavour, England failed to create chances on the scale required.

Wayne Rooney wasted a chance by tugging on the shirt of Halliche and was reprimanded by referee Ravshan Irmatov.

On twenty-nine minutes, Frank Lampard tested Algerian ‘keeper Rais Bolhi with a low shot but Bolhi was able to get down to make the save.

Lampard tested Bolhi again three minutes later, after an English cross fell to the Chelsea midfielder less than ten yards out.

Bolhi made another excellent stop to deny England an opening goal.

Karim Ziani shot agonisingly wide from long range on thirty-four minutes after an Algerian counter-attack left the striker with a clear shot on goal.

England were reduced to testing the Algerian goal from long range due to a well-organised defence. Steven Gerrard had another chance after thirty-nine minutes but Bolhi was again equal to it.

John Terry consistently used a direct approach; the Chelsea defender passed on numerous occasions straight to Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey but to no avail.

England went into half time the more disappointed side, as they had few chances and failed to put any sort of pressure on Algeria.

Another glorious chance was spurned by the English on fifty-five minutes- a fine move eventually led to Steven Gerrard feebly squaring a pass in the penalty area when Wayne Rooney was readying himself for a shot.

Wayne Rooney had his chance minutes later, but Aaron Lennon’s cross went just an inch too high to connect with Rooney’s head.

Chance after chance fell England’s way, but the attack was wasteful in its execution.

Emile Heskey went close again after an excellent passing move with Gareth Barry let him into a dangerous attacking position at the edge of the Algerian box.

Heskey’s shot deflected of an Algerian defender and went just over, and the resulting corner yielded another chance as Gerrard had a free header go straight to Bolhi in goal.

Jermain Defoe replaced Heskey after seventy-three minutes, and Defoe almost had an instant impact when his shot was cleared away after a skilful run into the box.

Defoe did liven up a dull England attack- forcing a number of corner kicks.

Algeria had few chances in the second half, with the ball being mired in their own third of the pitch for large parts of the half.

Jermain Defoe had a final long-distance shot from thirty yards on ninety minutes, but it sailed well over the crossbar.

Much will be made of the weight of ezpectation bearing down on the English team, but in truth this was an utterly dire performance from a team lacking in invention.

The move to 4-4-2 with Gerrard on the left seems to have led to a stagnant, toothless English team.

Algeria, on the other hand, will be more than happy with their performance, even if they lacked any real attacking threat.

The ‘Special Relationship’

United States v England.

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated fixture in the history of US Soccer. Almost everyone in the United States has an opinion on this game and ESPN expect record ratings for the game. The US public have good reason to be excited by the prospect of the fixture against England. Bob Bradley, while often criticised by some elements of USMNT’s fans, has silently gone about building upon the work of predecessor Bruce Arena and created the best American football team ever.

England enter the World Cup with renewed optimism. They breezed through qualification, are helmed by Fabio Capello and boast three of the best players in the world in the form of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. The harrowing nature of the injury suffered by captain Rio Ferdinand has brought Ledley King into the starting XI. While King and Terry are undoubtedly very talented central defenders, they have been prone to errors this past season. They will need to be fully focused on the task of dealing with a United States’ line of forwards which comes bearing many speedy individuals.

The goalkeeper question has dogged Fabio Capello in the weeks leading up to the kick-off. With each of Joe Hart, David James and incumbent Robert Green rumoured to be ahead in the pecking order at some stage. It is strange for Capello to be uncertain, perhaps he is not and that the mystery is just created in the media. In any case, this position is one where the United States holds a significant advantage. The unheralded Tim Howard has become one of the most athletic and reliable goalkeepers in the Premier League and his understudies Marcus Hahnemann and Brad Guzan are both capable replacements.

For all of the reassurance brought by Howard, the United States defence will be severely tested by England’s attacking quartet. If Capello does as expected and names Heskey, Lennon, Gerrard and Rooney then the United States will need to retain discipline and patience but also be ruthless when necessary. The questionable temperament of Wayne Rooney when he plays for England has come under scrutiny since the friendly against the Platinum Stars, with many suggesting that the United States’ players should attempt to rile the 24 year old Manchester United star. Oguchi Onyewu was unconvincing in his performance against Australia and is yet to complete a full ninety minutes since sustaining an injury at AC Milan nine months ago. Onyewu is a dominating presence and if he is fully fit, as Bradley assures us, then the US may have reason to believe that they can keep England’s attacking options in check.

Fabio Capello’s outburst against intrusive photographers recently was seen by some as a sign that the pressures of being an England coach at a World Cup was finally taking its toll. While I do not agree that Fabio Capello has lost his trademark composure, I do believe that this England side is under pressure to perform against the US. The Three Lions were handed a favourable draw in Group C and are expected to progress with maximum points. Failure to do so could lead to a troublesome Round of 16 fixture against their traditional nemesis Germany and more potential horrors awaiting further into the knockout stages. If England are to reach the World Cup Final for the first time since their triumph in 1966 it is imperative that they beat the United States and top Group C.

USMNT will have other ideas. For so long they have been regarded as something of an oddity, an overachieving side from a nation that is not in touch with the game of football. Now, boosted by a legion of supporters unfathomable even four years ago, the United States will attempt to set about a run into the deeper stages of the tournament.

There is much riding on this game for both sides, failure for either side may have damaging ramifications for their World Cup ambitions.