Three quick thoughts after England's 0-0 draw with Algeria in Group C on Friday:
1. The return of Gareth Barry helped ... but only to a certain extent. Much had been made of the importance of holding midfielder Gareth Barry and how he adds much-needed balance to the English midfield. Barry's presence allows the more offensively minded pair of Steven Gerarrd and Frank Lampard to get forward more. All these aspects were on display Friday. Barry was reasonably tidy in the holding role, and both Gerrard and Lampard surged forward at every opportunity against Algeria. So far, so good, except for the fact that neither Gerrard or Lampard ever looked that dangerous or creative and weren't in sync with each other or the other England players. Other than one decent effort from Lampard that was well saved by Algerian goalkeeper Rais M'Bohli Ouhad, England rarely was close to scoring and certainly lacked ideas.
2. England forwards Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey are out of sorts. Heskey was supposed to be the target-man foil who would provide the springboard for Rooney to take his prolific club form into the World Cup, but it hasn't quite worked out that way. A couple of decent moments against the U.S. aside, Heskey has looked sluggish and ponderous and also heavy with his touch when holding balls up. Add to the fact that he's practically a non-scoring striker, the question is, Why does Fabio Capello continue to start him? As for Rooney, perhaps the long English domestic season has taken its toll -- or perhaps he's just frustrated with the lack of quality service. We saw glimpses of the old Rooney on Friday and that's not a good thing -- the petulance, the temper and the swearing. He needs to channel his energy in a more positive fashion if England is to progress.
3. Algeria's a hard team to break down. As Slovenia and now England have found out, the Algerians are hard to score on. They play deep, pack men behind the ball and are disciplined in their defensive system. When they get the ball, they're capable of keeping possession and are technically very adept. However, going forward, Algeria still appears a bit toothless in the final third and relies ostensibly on the counter.
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