Reuters Soccer Blog
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After England treated their fans to a second excruciatingly dull World Cup performance in South Africa on Friday, those wanting answers were left with a bemused looking Fabio Capello and an irate Wayne Rooney rant to television cameras.
England 0 Algeria 0 was not what anyone had in mind for Friday’s Group C showdown in Cape Town and Three Lions’ fans certainly were not expecting to wake up to British tabloid headlines such as ‘Roo-boo-zela’ and ‘Cape Clowns’ the next morning.
England, who waltzed to World Cup qualification with two games to spare, were widely expected to put their opening (and for Rob Green, embarrassing) 1-1 draw with the United States behind them and take hold of the group with a straightforward victory over Algeria.
From kick-off it was painfully apparent that was not going to happen. Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard appeared never to have played together before in England’s central midfield, while Aaron Lennon struggled to make an impact once more.
The standard of goalkeeping in the early stages of this World Cup has not been the best but blame cannot lie with the controversial Jabulani ball.
Keepers and even strikers have criticised the adidas ball for being too light but the makers have said it is the roundest and truest ball ever created.
The haj is supposed to be a spiritual highlight in a Muslim's life, but everyday issues can sometimes intrude. In between prayers and visits to various sites, pilgrims often discuss all kinds of current issues. Among Algerians and Egyptians on the haj here this year, the buzz is about the public row sparked by a soccer game to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Algeria won that match 1-0. (Photo: Haj pilgrims at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, 24 Nov 2009/Caren Firouz)
The football rivalry has caused considerable bad blood between the two countries. Egypt has recalled its ambassador from Algiers after the play-off, accusing Algerian fans of post-match thuggery at the game's venue in Khartoum. Egypt had earlier complained when Algerian fans trashed the Algiers headquarters of Egypt-based Orascom Telecom's Djezzy mobile subsidiary. Before that, Algeria was irked after Egyptian fans pelted the Algerian team's bus with stones and some fans were hurt in scuffles on game-day in the first round of the qualifier in Cairo.
France ensured the likes of Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Thierry Henry will be at the World Cup in South Africa next year after winning through with a goal that has left Irish fans seething.
There was nothing wrong with the finish from William Gallas, but Thierry Henry admitted using his hand to keep the ball in play and commentators and Irish supporters are already talking of “The Hand of God II” and “The Hand of Henry” in reference to Diego Maradona in 1986.