Time to concentrate anew on England v Slovenia. OK. England have been rubbish so far. But France have made our rubbish look good (I hate to say it but the obvious reaction to today’s decisive result is frankly “good riddance”), and there have been unconvincing performances from Italy, Germany and – until last night – Spain. Patriotic to the end, Luke Harvey tries his best to keep the faith …
“I can’t believe we didn’t beat such a poor team,” came one comment from around the table. “I know,” I replied, “It almost makes you ashamed to be Algerian, doesn’t it?”
A few forced smiles were raised but the day after the night before was still a bit too early for such jocularity. The conversation was quickly diverted away from football towards something less disheartening.
In some respects, even now the wounds are still a little too fresh for my liking, despite the time that has passed between the match and these thoughts. The morgue-like atmosphere among my friends following the match was a stark contrast to the pre-match festivities.
As Slovenia quickly opened up a 2-0 lead over the USA I jumped to my feet and pumped my fists in delight. I had recently had an article published in the local newspaper and had acclaimed Slovenia as my dark horses of the group.
My friends had seen the piece and now the pressure was on me to prove my football knowledge was second to none. As it turned out, the draw that transpired would be ideal for England – leaving the top spot open for the grabs on the final day.
The rather pathetic performance against Algeria isn’t something that will be leaving my conscience anytime soon, and despite my inability to influence the result in any shape or form, I was left feeling almost responsible for such a poor performance. It’s as if I’m ashamed of the whole thing, although I suppose someone has to be.
As the England team trudged off the pitch following the goalless draw with a team deemed much inferior to ourselves, “Always a blue” Wayne Rooney had his rather ironic say to a nearby camera: “Nice to see your own fans booing you, that’s what loyal support is.”
Coupled with making the entire PR department put their head in their hands, Rooney managed to show that when you put a camera in front of a frustrated England player, he may well prove himself to have lack the least appreciation of how to behave.
From this petulant outburst, to John Terry airing the squad’s grievances all the way to David James’s anger at being excluded in the first match, the cameras have essentially captured a group of individuals crumbling in front of them.
After all, that’s all they seem to be, individuals.
You often get the feeling that the national team’s success comes some way down the list of priorities for many of our international players, certainly trailing the likes of “myself”, “my wife” and “my money” by a considerable margin. Most of all, these players seem to think we should almost be rejoicing at their horrific performances.
I can tell them that we most definitely are not. These woeful matches that I have sat through leave me feeling hollow and rather embarrassed about what I always thought was a proud nation.
Perhaps that’s a little over the top, but the fact I am still dejected even days after the match highlights quite how this World Cup has me feeling so far.
There are a lot of things I could call our part in the match against Algeria, many of them far from suitable for a website of this nature. What I will label it though is flat, one-dimensional and devoid of backup.
We have played, and it seems we always will play, a very predictable brand of football. You can imagine that no matter who you put in the team, if they pulled on an England strip they would automatically pass the ball sideways to the person next to them in almost robotic fashion. There is always a very pedestrian feel whenever we have the ball, an aura that we are almost counting on the opponents to give us a goal as opposed to actually earning it ourselves.
There was no such luck against the Algerians, who came into the match organised and full of confidence; and rightly not fearing our side. They were well aware that if they kept the ball and passed it around, forcing us to chase it for long periods, frustration would soon set in. The fact that Algeria were more than our equals for much of the match did not help in the least; we can’t even take solace by claiming we dominated the game and were just unfortunate. We weren’t.
Where we can seek some comfort is in the similar failings of nations like France, Italy and Spain and to a certain extent, Germany; all of whom have struggled so far in the early stages of this tournament.
England must now make sure that the previous two matches are out of mind and prove to the people watching that when the pressure is on they can deliver, because, should they win, the pressure is only going to increase from here on. Once again I will take up my seat and cheer England on, hopeful in the fact that this won’t be our last involvement in a World Cup for four more years.
On the other hand, I always have Paraguay. They aren’t looking too bad, are they?