After Slovenia and the USA drew 2-2 earlier on in the day on Friday, what was needed from the England team that walked out onto the pitch at Cape Town was a display of confidence and a willingness to rise to the occasion. That simply did not happen. What we got was a woeful performance and a huge letdown.
There can be no mistaking what an embarrassing failure this was. According to the latest World Cup betting odds on England actually winning the Group are now 11/10, with the USA quoted at 2/1 and Slovenia at 5/2. The chances of England qualifying from Group C are now 4/9. Anyone who saw the way the Three Lions played will not be surprised by this. They were truly shocking.
Now people will be looking for reasons for what happened and there are all sorts of hypotheses that are being bandied about. It isn’t helping by pointing the finger of blame, but one thing that strikes me as undermining the morale of the squad is the policy that Capello has followed by not telling players that they were in the side until just hours before kick off. Doing that saps confidence and England showed plenty of fear in my view.
Emile Heskey, who has not scored since February, and Glen Johnson looked nervy and jaded. They simply did not turn up and while Rooney’s goal-scoring form has been phenomenal at Manchester United this season the statistics tell a different story when he is in an England shirt – he hasn’t netted a single goal in his last seven games. Frank Lampard showed little improvement on his previous performance against the USA although Gareth Barry was back in the side he looked out of sorts.
What is even more worrying is the overall team performance – England just did not look convincing. They were outplayed by the Algerians. The warning signs are clearly there. England are in jeopardy of missing the qualification boat. They have to win against Group leaders Slovenia on Wednesday. The online betting odds on them beating the Slovenes are 4/9. You can get odds of 5/1 on a 1-0 England win while the odds on that Slovakia winning by the same margin is 11/1. Everything now rests in the hands of Capello who must take a long hard look at the England team and try to remedy the situation.
One crumb of comfort for England fans is that as the weekend rolled on it became clear that other fancied teams seem to be having problems aplenty themselves: the feuding French, the winless Italians and the Germans crashing to defeat against Serbia.
Things are getting to the stage where teams are starting to drop out of contention for qualification and Cameroon were the first to find themselves in that position after losing 2-1 to Denmark. The next few days will see other teams ending up in the same situation – let’s just hope the England isn’t among them.