What: England vs. Algeria, Group C, Matchday 2
When: Friday, June 18, 2010, 2:30 pm ET
Where: Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
TV: ESPN, Univisión
Three points. That’s what the English have in mind. In fact, a win is nearly a must for the Three Lions in the wake of their draw with the United States. Otherwise, their chances of advancing become thinner than Peter Crouch’s legs. Clearly England are better than Algeria, man for man, but then again, that’s what was said about the England-USA match.
And the North Africans, who put up an unexpectedly tough fight against Slovenia in their first game, need points themselves if they are to have any hope. They are massive underdogs, but considering the defensive struggles England are facing, could an upset be in the making?
Coach Fabio Capello has spent the past few days distracting any criticism—and debate, to some extent—with talk about superficial things. First, he blamed the ball for Robert Green’s gaffe, calling the Jabulani the “worst ball that I have seen in my life.” Then he got into a he said/he said spat with Franz Beckenbauer, who slammed England’s play against the US for its “kick and rush” style. Capello retorted: “It is easy to speak about a team when you sit in the stand.”
WATCH: ENGLAND VS. USA RECAP
But for Capello, there are more serious matters to attend to. Will Green start or will David James go into the net? With center back Ledley King ruled out through injury, will Jamie Carragher step in or will Capello go with Matthew Upson? Most likely, it will be the former, though fans at home are clamoring for the latter.
Gareth Barry, now healthy, is set to start in the midfield, replacing James Milner. But the key will be getting Wayne Rooney (WATCH: Rooney profile) into the game. The Manchester United star was invisible against the US, but is feeling sure of himself and the team, saying, “I am confident we can do well and sure we can qualify from this group for the next round.”
“I am not afraid of Rooney,” Algeria defender Rafik Halliche said on Thursday. “I'm not afraid of any Englishman. I’m a grown up and a tough boy.”
Big talk from the Desert Foxes won’t be enough to stop England, that’s for sure. But, like the US, Algeria’s mentality will be the key. They were unlucky not to earn a point against Slovenia, giving up a goal on a goalkeeping error. But they can take positives from creating several clear scoring chances, particularly from their left flank, where Karim Ziani and Nadir Belhadj attacked continually.
WATCH: SLOVENIA VS. ALGERIA RECAP
Coach Rabah Saadane appears set to continue with the same starting XI as faced Slovenia, though a decision will have to be made at game time about goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi, who sprained his knee in training on Tuesday. The Algerians will also be without Abdelkader Ghezzal (WATCH: Ghezzal profile), who was sent off against Slovenia after subbing on in the second half.
But most importantly, Saadane is looking for a frame of mind that could spring a surprise on England.
“England have their backs to the wall,” Saadane said in his prematch press conference. “We have nothing to lose and everything to win.”
England: Gareth Barry. The Manchester City holding midfielder, struggling with an ankle injury, was left out against the Yanks. Now he’s back, and his tough-minded defensive presence should allow Gerrard to attack more.
Algeria: Karim Ziani. Quick and clever, Ziani provided a fearless dynamism against Slovenia and should’ve been rewarded for his impulses with a goal. Versus England, the Wolfsburg midfielder will look to get after Glen Johnson, no easy task.
This is a match England should run away with. Their talent and experience provide them with all the weapons they need. But it won’t be as easy as some observers—and most English fans—make it out to be.