The tussle for the top two spots in 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Group C will intensify when England take to the field against Algeria on Friday. For Fabio Capello’s men, the mission will be to put their underwhelming draw against USA behind them, while their opponents need to bounce back from their loss to Slovenia knowing that a second successive setback would spell the end of their qualification hopes.
England-Algeria, Group C, Cape Town, Friday 18 June, 20.30 (local time)
The Three Lions let two precious points slip between their fingers when they kicked off their bid against the United States. Overall, they looked short of ideas going forward, but that could all change with the return of Gareth Barry from an ankle injury, the midfielder's presence allowing Steven Gerrard to get further forward after spending most of England’s opener chasing the ball. Despite Barry’s return, the spectre of fitness worries nonetheless continues to hang over the squad, with centre-back Ledley King a doubt for the rest of the tournament after suffering a serious groin complaint against the Stars and Stripes.
At the other end of the pitch, Algeria will be anxious to give a more convincing account of themselves than they managed against Slovenia, although they will have to cope without forward Abdelkader Ghezzal after he saw red in that game. Coach Rabah Saadane could turn to Rafik Saifi to fill the void, with the striker seemingly fit again following the ankle injury he picked up during his late substitute cameo last time out. Above all, Les Fennecs will hope for a sterling showing from their defensive quartet of Madjid Bougherra, Anther Yahia, Rafik Halliche and Nadir Belhadj, who all boast experience in Europe. Belhadj will be particularly familiar with the England line-up, having spent the last two seasons with Portsmouth.
Players to watch
Steven Gerrard v Karim Ziani
The battle for midfield mastery ought to be an enthralling contest, with England captain Gerrard coming up against Algeria’s beating heart in Ziani. The former will look to demonstrate his quality as he did when he opened the scoring early on against the United States, while Ziani will be focused on helping his team-mates spring a surprise and claw their way back into the qualification equation. The Wolfsburg man already boasts the upper hand over his Liverpool counterpart in terms of completed passes, having picked out a colleague 70 per cent of the time compared to Gerrard's 59 per cent success rate.
2 – The number of goals England have conceded in five matches against African teams at the FIFA World Cup. Cameroon fired both those efforts in a memorable quarter-final at Italy 1990, making them the only side from Africa to have found the net against the Three Lions on the global stage. Cameroon nonetheless lost that encounter, with England's record from the five matches reading three wins and two draws.
What they said
"We have a lot of players who can score goals, but for us to get a better result I'll need to play better than I did last time and score. I don't feel any pressure because the team are playing well," Wayne Rooney, England striker.
"We have several talented players who can make things happen. We're going to pose the England team plenty of problems and we'll be more ambitious than we were against Slovenia. It's a role that suits us well." Anther Yahia, Algeria defender and captain
Algeria's only FIFA World Cup strike against a side from the United Kingdom came against Northern Ireland at Mexico 1986. Will the Desert Foxes be able to get their first goal of the tournament and become only the second African team to register against England?