RUSTENBERG, South Africa -- Around the England camp, a mood of intrigue swirls as the players try to come to terms with the full abjectness of their performance against Algeria on Friday. Two draws in its opening two games mean England must beat Slovenia on Wednesday to be sure of avoiding the ignominy of being the first England side eliminated in the group stage of a World Cup for which it has qualified since 1958.
The repercussions and the pressure left something mutinous in the air with
Numerous England players have spoken about the boredom they feel in a daily routine that gives them six or seven free hours in the afternoon, with essentially nothing to fill them beyond darts and snooker. The implication is that Capello's disciplinarian approach is beginning to grate on players exposed to it over a protracted period for the first time. The former Scotland striker
Perhaps realising how confrontational he sounded, Terry offered token support for Capello, the coach who stripped him of the England captaincy after allegations that he had had an affair with
Certainly Terry gave the impression the meeting will be stormy, drawing parallels -- albeit in apparent jest - with the situation of his Chelsea teammate
There have been rumours of dissent for some time, but it only erupted on Friday, first in
"Really we have to play like we do in training: passes, passes, passes, really well, really good. But the problem is not just when we have the ball, we have to win back the ball very quickly, this is one of the big problems we have now. We have to press the opponent more to win back the ball."
There is also the fact that England, although using the 11 players who would have seemed the first choice after the qualifiers (given the injury to Rio Ferdinand), is operating in a different shape, 4-4-2 as opposed to 4-2-3-1. It is not clear whether that has come about because
Either way, the result was stodginess. Given the atmosphere around the Bafokeng Sports Palace, it's hard to avoid the feeling that the problems go deeper than Rooney's positioning. There has been all the talk that usually follows England disappointments of the lack of technical quality, and it is certainly true that Algeria looked more comfortable on the ball on Friday. But the likes of
It's a point even Algeria's
How Capello must wish restoring confidence were his only concern. Before he can even begin to address that, or how tactically to get the best out of the available players, he must first deal with Terry and the challenge he has lain down. Whether he meant to or not, the Chelsea captain has questioned Capello's whole approach, and it is hard to see how the Sunday night meeting will not bloody. The question then is whether the storm leaves England's campaign in tatters, or whether the sense of crisis pulls the team together with a renewed focus on at least making it out of the group.