ENG 0 ALG 0: No match for Alton Towers

BIZARRE topical publicity stunt of the week: Alton Towers offered free entry to the first 100 Robert Greens to turn up at the theme park today in the build to the England-Algeria game.

(It was the “first 100” bit that tickled me. How unlucky would you feel if you were the 101st? As unlucky as Robert Green, I suspect.)

The Robert Green who wore No.12 on his back in Rustenburg last Saturday could have been released to take up that offer, as things turned out – dropped for tonight’s game in favour of David James. Perhaps Fabio Capello could have gone along with him. It would have been a far more enjoyable way for the England head coach to spend his 64th birthday than this was.

What to say? England were awful. Steven Gerrard was ineffective out of position on the left. Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney carried hardly any threat up front. Algeria looked more comfortable in possession for long spells, and thoroughly deserved their point.

It was just about the worst game of the World Cup so far, and it earns both sides a point on the Gubbometer as a result. (That actually puts Algeria top, which is a bit harsh on them really, given that this was a great result for them.)

Frank Lampard had one snap shot in the first half, and that was more or less it from England. The obvious joke? His missus is on The One Show, and he was in The No-Show. For some reason, ITV presenter Adrian Chiles failed to make this gag afterwards. Perhaps it didn’t occur to him.

ITV, I’m sure, will be deluged with thousands of complaints from viewers wanting to know why the adverts were interrupted by this apology of a football match for around an hour-and-a-half. Surely some technician should have seen what was going on, and cut back to the ads. Heads must roll.

Not that the ads would provide too much solace; those World Cup ads suggesting that England might win the whole thing, all of which look more ridiculous with every showing. Maybe, Just Maybe is the slogan of that ad for The Sun which features Terry Venables singing. Maybe Just Forget It would feel more appropriate right now.

The frustration was written all over Rooney’s face at full-time, as England’s fans inside the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town made their feelings known. That frustration can be the only reason why he looked into a camera as he walked off and said: “Nice to hear your own fans boo you.”

Alarmingly, a fan someone managed to evade FIFA security and get into the England dressing room to debate the performance with the players, before being removed.

Perspective time: England will go through if they beat Slovenia. And potential last-16 opponents Germany don’t look quite so impressive in the wake of their 0-1 defeat against Serbia this afternoon. (Actually, Ghana look the team from that group to avoid in the first knockout stage, if England get there. If.)

And if you’re looking for omens, England drew their first two games at Italia 90 and went all the way to the semi-final. Then again, they also drew their first two games at Euro 92 and failed to make it out of the group, as the manager was branded a turnip and went on to suffer abject humiliation in possibly the most jaw-dropping documentary ever made about football.

So it could go either way for Fabio, really.

But if things don’t improve against Slovenia on Wednesday, he will get a rougher ride than Nemesis could ever give him.

World Cup Gubbometer

1. Algeria: 2 (CI: 1)
2=. Cameroon: 1 (CI: 1)
2=. Ivory Coast: 1 (CI: 1)
2=. Japan: 1 (CI: 1)
2=. Portugal: 1 (CI: 1)
6=. England: 1 (CI: 1/2)
6=. France: 1 (CI: 1/2)
6=. Slovakia: 1 (CI: 1/2)
6=. Uruguay: 1 (CI: 1/2)
10=. Everybody else: 0

CI=Capello Index

(NB. Teams are awarded one point every time they take part in a game so mind-numbingly tedious that it would almost certainly have been last on Match of the Day had it been a Premier League fixture. Teams level on points will be separated by the Capello Index – the number of points divided by the number of games played.)

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