Goalless draw heralds victory for Algerians as England team disappoint
I didn’t see the French press after France’s 2-0 defeat to Mexico on Thursday. I didn’t look at the German press after die Mannschaft lost 1-0 to Serbia on Friday afternoon. But I did have an online peek at the English newspapers following England’s 0-0 draw on Friday night with Algeria.
They all had a go. Which was more, according to the papers, than the England players.
General opinion was that England were lacklustre. And there was disappointment with the Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney.
The Sun added : "Drab, dreary, depressing, disjointed, at times desperate and, overall, dull as ditchwater. Thanks England. No wonder you were booed off the pitch by your own fans last night."
The Times suggested the players were "haunted by the fear that they will fail to meet" the expectations of a nation which has not won the World Cup since 1966.
At least England drew their second match. France, world champions in 1998 and runners-up in 2006, lost their second match to the Mexicans and lie third in their group.
France - so the French papers say - are worried that their Group A rivals Mexico and Uruguay may conspire to achieve the draw that would send both through to the last 16.
If the Mexicans and the Uruguayans do play out a stalemate. They’ll both have five points. The French will at best muster four if - and that is by no means certain given their present wretchedness - they win their final game against South Africa.
The mother of all apparant stitch-ups took place in the 1982 World Cup when Germany and Austria played out a goalless draw to squeeze out Algeria.
And at Euro 2004, the Swedes and Danes - another pair of neighbours - drew 2-2. Out went the Italians. Mamma mia.
The Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has insisted there’s no need for the French to be worried.
"We must not get caught up in speculation and theorising," he stressed. "It is a football match and we are thinking of approaching it as if we were just setting out on the group phase."
This conspiracy stuff always happens at major tournaments just before the last game. And usually the thing that stops it is the name of the opponents in the last 16.
Here in South Africa, the Group A winner for example will face the second placed team from Group B.
And the Group B winner will play the second placed team from Group A.
A mutually beneficial arrangement to progress is one thing. But there will be a fall guy in the deal.
If by coming second in Group A you then encounter Group B winners like Argentina, then that's a very short sighted stitch up. So it isn’t such a good idea to play for second place.
Mexico coach Javier Aguirre is sensibly refusing to enter into what ifs. "We just want to make sure of getting through to the next round," he insisted.
"I hope my team are sound and will be strong and solid as they were against France."
England would love to be into ararngements. The likes of Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard have to beat Slovenia to qualify for the knockout stages. Slovenia who are sitting pretty on four points know they only need a draw to advance. A victory would see them go through as Group C winners.
Players keep saying football is about 90 minutes. Unless of course they’re English, then it’s about 1966.