In the Green Point Stadium in South Africa, Algeria created an upset by drawing against England. Before the England-Algeria game, all the punters, football commentators and observers were portraying Algeria as a sacrificial lamb. Even Wayne Rooney had gone on record a couple of times in the press saying that Algeria will be wiped out. But Saadane and his boys had other ideas.
Yesterday, Algeria, who had spent twenty four years without World Cup participation, gave England a run for their money. They surprised England with their ability to keep possession of the ball, defend with discipline and attack with pace and flair. Technically the Algerian players appeared at ease and matched or, at times, were even superior to their English counterparts.
England, weighed down by their favourites’ tag and the pressure that goes with it, had no answer to Algeria’s great tactical and skilful display which forced an England side to dig deep to get a draw and to avoid bigger embarrassment. At the end of the match, England left the pitch with their heads down, Rooney even venting his frustrations on camera and taking a dig at their own supporters who were booing them.
James, Johnson, Cole, Terry, Carragher, Gerrard, Lampard, Barry (Crouch 84'), Lennon (Wright Phillips 63'), Heskey (Defoe 74'), Rooney
Coach : Capello
M’bolhi, Bougherra, Yahia, Halliche, Lacen, Yebda (Mesbah 88'), Belhadj, Kadir, Boudebouz (Abdoun 74'), Ziani (Guedioura 81'), Matmour
Coach : Saâdane
Saadane decided to give third choice goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi his first cap as Chaouchi was injured. Mbolhi did his best to keep a clean sheet and showed that he is a great goalkeeper for the future. The Algerian defenders kept the England forwards at bay. Bougherra, Halliche, Yahia and Belhadj never allowed Rooney or Heskey and their teammates a sniff at goal. Well, almost never.
In midfield, Lacen,Yebda, Kadir and Ziani kept possession and starved Gerrard, Lampard and Barry of the ball. The Algerian team grew in confidence in the first few minutes of the match and kept controlling the ball and the game. In front, twenty-year old Boudebouz and Matmour kept England’s defence busy and Carragher had to resort to fouls to stop them. Algeria was the better side for a great part of the game.
Algeria kept their shape throughout the game, passing the ball around and working hard as a compact unit. Technically and tactically, Algeria appeared superior to England. In the stands, the English supporters were getting frustrated with the performance of their players and their lack of enterprise. At the end of the match, they turned against them and started booing them.
The England players were soon headed for the changing rooms where a stern talk by Fabio Capello was awaiting them. And a snack of humble pie too.