Best and worst from the weekend . . .
UNDER-PERFORMING players, baffling selections, even more mind-boggling substitutions and some worrying statements from a manager fast losing his Midas touch.
An accurate assessment of England’s World Cup adventure so far. Hardly a recipe for success, is it? More like a ticket to an early exit.
We are not exactly alone in fluffing our lines, but aside from the feeble French, no other country has looked quite so badly out of sorts.
A lack of courage and a lack of desire were abundantly clear on Friday night in a crucial World Cup clash that could have been confused for a pre-season friendly.
And so was a lack of class. No wonder Algeria’s players looked gutted at full-time, they missed a chance for victory.
Our multi-million pound footballers were suddenly incapable of executing a simple pass or trapping the ball. What myself and the millions of other armchair fans want to know is, why?
Can Capello be right - is fear really a factor in England’s struggles?
He claimed in the aftermath of the Algeria shocker that his players are unable to cope with ‘the pressure of the World Cup’.
He reckons they look like world beaters on the training ground. But send them into battle and they hide.
Basically they bottle it and he can’t work out why.
Well Fabio better find a quick fix, because come 3pm on Wednesday the pressure and expectation will be greater than ever before.
England have one chance to put it right, an hour-and-a-half against Slovenia to avoid lasting embarrassment.
THE fallout is becoming far more interesting than the football.
No sooner has our national numbskull Wayne Rooney had a pop at England fans for daring to boo him and his bungling team-mates than it emerges all hell has broken loose in the South African soap opera that is the French squad.
Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka has been sent home (or spared further embarrassment, depending on which way you look at it) after allegedly letting rip at their clueless coach Raymond Domenech.
Anelka apparently didn’t take too kindly to being substituted at halftime in the Froggies’ defeat against Mexico on Thursday night.
A heated row and a loose-lipped leak later and the finer details of their slanging match are in the public domain.
Anelka is off to the airport while captain Patrice Evra is busy tracking down the ‘traitor’ responsible for tipping off the press. But that’s not the end of it.
The French yesterday refused to train in a show of support for axed Anelka while their team director Jean-Louis Valentin quit his post claiming he was ashamed of the players.
Priceless. Judging by the standard of the two French performances so far, Anelka will probably beat his team-mates home by about three days.
Suggesting him as a decent outside bet to be top-scorer (66-1 each-way) wasn’t one of my better betting moments, but I had no idea that France were really this bad.
I know they needed the ‘Hand of Henry’ to beat Sean St Ledger and his pals to qualify, but I felt sure their big players would shine on the big stage.
Instead their big-time Charlie’s have been a big embarrassment. They now have to overcome atrocious hosts South Africa in their final group game tomorrow and hope that at the same time Mexico and Uruguay don’t draw.
It’s difficult to have any faith in the French fulfilling their half of the bargain, let alone worrying about what happens elsewhere.
They look like being the most notable casualties in the opening stage – unless England turn in another stinker.