About as bad as Scotland in 1978, and that’s saying something. All down to a scenario that’s very similar to 1986: we need to beat an Eastern European side to go through. Wayne Rooney hat-trick anyone?
You often hear pundits claiming that there’s no such thing as an easy game in the World Cup anymore: while they’re probably correct, it’s difficult to contradict the argument that England’s game with Algeria tomorrow night is potentially our easiest game in Group C.
The Algerians do not travel well; the Desert Foxes also have a very poor recent record against EuropeanÂ opposition. As well as losing 1-0 to Slovenia last weekend, they have also recentlyÂ suffered 3-0 defeats to both Ireland and Serbia. Algeria haveÂ won three away games inÂ the past year: 2-0 against the mighty Zambia during World Cup qualification, and wins over Mali andÂ Ivory Coast in the African Nations Cup earlier this year. Algeria were lucky to win theÂ latter: they trailed 2-1 going into stoppage time.
Only three of their squad of 23 play in Algeria including two of the three keepers, oneÂ of whom (Faouzi Chaouchi) was to blame for the goal the Slovenians scored on Sunday. The rest ofÂ the squad play in Europe and it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that six of them play in France.Â Closer to home, defender Nadir Belhadj and midfielder Adlene Guedioura play for PortsmouthÂ and Wolves respectively;Â Madjid Bougherra is a Rangers player, which might explain why he’s not exactly been backwards in coming forwards today.
Compounding their poor record in front of goal, they’ll be without striker Abdelkader Ghezzal, who was sent off for two stupid yellow cardsÂ in their first game. Veteran striker Rafik Saifi (who plays in the French 2nd division
for Istres) or the relatively inexperienced Rafik Djebbour of AEK Athens are the only other options at striker:Â Saifi is the only player in the entire squad who has scored more than ten goalsÂ at international level.
If you fancy a punt, it’s possible that we could keep a clean sheet (only Brazil in 1970 and Romania in 1998Â have scored against us in corresponding group games since 1966), but in case you hadn’t noticedÂ we’ve got a few issues of our own. Apart from the inclusion of Gareth Barry, the team for tomorrow is stillÂ a mystery and – perhaps more worryingly – Stevie G’s goal against the USA last Saturday was theÂ first time an England player had scored in an ‘away’ game since Jermain Defoe scoredÂ twice against the Dutch before the start of last season: we don’t have any JapaneseÂ defenders up our sleeve for this game. Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey haven’t scored in an away game since the 4-0 winÂ over Kazakhstan just over a year ago – although I agree with John Motson that Rooney is due a goal for England.
It’s possible that there won’t be that many goals in thisÂ game: one of the less appealing scenarios (other than an Algeria win or another draw) would be something similar toÂ the win over Trinidad & Tobago in the last World Cup. That game was going nowhere until two late goalsÂ settled it. The last time we failed to score in the second group game was in 1990 (a dreadful goalless draw with the Dutch) andÂ we haven’t scored three since beating Argentina in 1962.
For anoraks and train spotters, here’s the list of the second group games England have played in:
1950: England 0-1 USA (yes, that game)
1954: England 2-0 Switzerland (we beat the hosts!)
1958: England 0-0 Brazil
1962: England 3-1 Argentina
1966: England 2-0 Mexico (Bobby Charlton scores from just outside Wembley station)
1970: England 0-1 Brazil (the Gordon Banks save, the Bobby Moore tackle and a thin…well, thin-ish…Francis Lee)
1982: England 2-0 Czechoslovakia
1986: England 0-0 Morocco (Ray Wilkins gets sent off)
1990: England 0-0 Netherlands
1998: England 1-2 Romania
2002: England 1-0 Argentina (the Beckham penalty)
2006: England 2-0 Trinidad & Tobago
Overall: P12 w6 D3 L3 F13 A5 (so that’s less than a goal a game)
11 Lions expects (and really, really wants!) an England win, although it may not be the landslide that some fans seem to be expecting. HavingÂ said that, a convincing win would be just what the doctor ordered and would set us up nicely for the last group game next Wednesday.
We’ll have some kind of reaction either late tomorrow night or on Saturday morning, although after a hellish work week Saturday lunchtime might be a more realistic option. Enjoy the game…and spare a thought for theÂ French.
Slovenia have just beaten Algeria 1-0 thanks to a Robert Koren goal, which means we’re now in second place behind the Slovenes; our next opponents (Algeria) are bottom and their performance this afternoon was very reminiscent of their African Cup Of Nations effort; substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal of Siena was sent off for two silly yellow cards (shirt pulling and deliberate handball)Â and keeper Faouzi Chaouchi did his best Robert Green impression. The bookies are currently quoting England at roughly around 1/4 to beat the Algerians but our outright win odds have drifted since yesterday: average price is 8/1 with best odds being 17/2, which is roughly the same as Holland.
Our potential ’round of sixteen’ opponents start their campaigns today: Serbia are about to kick off against Ghana and later on Germany take on Australia.
It seems that you canâ€™t watch TV or read a newspaper in the UK without being told about John Terryâ€™s latest indiscretions so hereâ€™s a link to the Daily Mirror report.
The only real football interest in the story is what Fabio Capello will do. TheÂ new story â€“Â combined withÂ other issuesÂ â€“ has dented Terryâ€™s credibility as captain (to put it mildly) but some of the names that have been suggested as replacements are hardly paragons of virtue. Unfortunately it seems that the press seem to think of the captain of the England team should be some kind of knight in shining armour; which is a lesson that any professional footballer with either aspiring to or currently occupying that position ought to remember the first thing in the morning when they wake up or last thing at night when they go to bed.
It was interesting watching â€˜The Andrew Marr Showâ€™ on BBC2 this morning as Sophie Raworth was the guest presenter, presumably meaning considerably less embarrassment for the BBC as Marr had one of these so-called â€˜super injunctionsâ€™ overturned a few weeks ago. Arguably that should have set alarm bells ringing in certain quarters, but if you are arrogant enough to think you can get away with everything up to and including trying to gag the press…
In other newsâ€¦Togo have been banned for the next two African Cup of Nations tournaments after they withdrew from the 2010 tournament (that ends today) because their bus was attacked by gunmen. Fortunately reserve keeper Kodjovi Obilale is making an excellent recovery from the gunshot wounds he received in the attack. Ghana face Egypt later in the final: the semi-final between Algeria and Egypt ended with the latter defeating the former 4-0 and the Algerians finishing the game with eight players. Not letting Algeria have any time on the ball and going for an early goal might be the way forward for our Group C game against them (Friday 18th June, 7:30pm GMT); expect a lot of impassioned gesturing, rolling around and sulking â€“ and the Algerians may also try something likeÂ that.
More good news: Paraguay striker Salvador Cabanas â€“ who was shot in a bar in Mexico City last week â€“ is also making good progress although his participation this summer is highly doubtful. It appears he was shot following an argument with a known Mexican gangster who accused Cabanas of not scoring enough goals for Club America.
And finallyâ€¦Arsenal v Manchester United this afternoon. In 3D if youâ€™re lucky enough to live near one of the bars with the equipment.
Thierry Henry has escaped any kind of censure from FIFA over the handball incident against Ireland last year, in much the same way as Diego Maradona did in 1986. The statement that FIFA issued is interesting though – the bold text has been added by us:
“On 2 December 2009, the FIFA Executive Committee asked the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to analyse the handling offence committed by Thierry Henry during the France v. Republic of Ireland match on 18 November 2009, and to consider the possible disciplinary consequences.
“At its meeting on 18 January 2010, the Disciplinary Committee reached the conclusion that there was no legal foundation for the committee to consider the case because handling the ball cannot be regarded as a serious infringement as stipulated in article 77a) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.Â There is no other legal text that would allow the committee to impose sanctions for any incidents missed by match officials.”
In case you were wondering (and we know you were), here’s article 77 for you:
‘Article 77 Specific Jurisdiction
The Disciplinary CommitteeÂ is responsible for:
a. Sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention:
b. Rectifying obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions:
c. Extending the duration of a match suspension incurred automatically by an expulsion (cf. art 18, par.4)
d. Pronouncing additional sanctions, such as a fine.’
So now you know. A deliberate handball in the act of scoring a goal that is missed by the refereeÂ is not a serious enough infringement for the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to look at it retrospectively. The lastÂ sentence in the statement is interesting as it seems to implyÂ that the FIFA lawyers have had to look at it. You know, just in case any parties that might have had a grievance felt like taking the matter to the next level.
The second incident is reminiscent of what happened at the World Cup in Spain in 1982. Austria and West Germany knew they only had to draw in order for both to qualify for the second round at the expense of Algeria; so it should not have come as a massive surprise that the game – whichÂ as much fun as watching paint dry by all accounts -Â endedÂ 0-0. Since then, the last group games in major international tournaments have kicked of simultaneously in order to prevent that happening again.
Or at least that was how it was supposed to work. On Monday – with both teams knowing in advance that a draw would do – Algeria drew 0-0 with Angola and both qualified for the quarter finals of the African CupÂ of NationsÂ at Mali’s expense; Mali have launched an official complaint to the CAFÂ about the game.
Hopefully we won’t get any outrageous decisions or games like those mentioned above this summer, but don’t be too shocked if we do. Let’s just hope England aren’t involved in any of them.
There still appears to beÂ some confusion over the death toll, but it seems likely that as well as the un-named Angolan bus driver, assistant coach Abalo Amalete, press officer Stanislas Ocloo and reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale were either killed during the attack or died of their injuries afterwards.
The Front For The Liberation of the Enclave of CambindaÂ (FLEC)Â claimed responsibility for the attack, which happened on Friday afternoon.
Following the withdrawal of the Togolese team, Group B has been reduced to three teams (Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast and Ghana), with Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast scheduled to kick of at the Chimandela Stadium in Cambinda on Monday afternoon. As well as all but one of the Group B matches, the stadium is the venue for the Malawi/Mali game in Group A (18th January) and one of the quarter finals (Winners of GroupÂ B v Runners Up Group A) – the latter game may feature hostsÂ Angola.
It goes without saying that we’re shocked and appalled at what’s happened over the last couple of days. We intended to cover the tournament in order to take a look at some of England’s opponents (principally AlgeriaÂ but also Nigeria and Ghana, both of whom we may face after the group stage) and while weÂ will still do so, at the momentÂ our thoughts are with the friends and families of those killed and injured in this terrorist attack on Les Eperviers (The Sparrowhawks).
UPDATE: Reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale was erroneously reported as having died by several sources on Saturday, it now appears that he was veryÂ seriously injured in the attack and was transferred to a South African hospital for emergency surgery – pictures of Obilale arriving strapped to a stretcher were shown on Sky Sports late on Saturday night.