England face a must-win encounter with Algeria on Friday as they seek to restore confidence in their ability to make an impact at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Fabio Capello's team go into the Group C game in Cape Town under considerably more pressure than they would want after drawing 1-1 with the USA in Rustenburg on Saturday.
Capello will definitely be without Ledley King, who has a groin strain, but they have should be boosted by the return of midfielder Gareth Barry from an ankle injury. The team has also been lifted by star striker Wayne Rooney and Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole's return to training on Tuesday, with the duo having been restricted to gym and pool work after picking up knocks in the opening game.
Captain Steven Gerrard acknowledged that England must win both of their remaining games. "It would have been nice to start with three points but we conceded a goal at a bad time after going ahead," said the Liverpool star, who scored four minutes into their game with the USA. "It was a shock and a setback to concede but I think we played okay. The target now has got to be seven points."
The target now has got to be seven points.
Big things are expected of England and their opening performance drew criticism, with Capello's selection of Robert Green in goal, whose error gifted the Americans an equaliser, seeing his judgement seriously questioned for the first time since he became the country's coach.
They have also come under criticism from the legendary former Germany player and coach Franz Beckenbauer, who accused them of going backwards in their development and reverting to a basic kick-and-run style.
Defender Jamie Carragher, however, urged disgruntled England fans to keep faith with the England coach. "He is Fabio Capello. Look what he has done in his career, at what he has done with England, how we qualified," he said. "His record as a manager is unblemished. That gives you belief on its own."
West Ham United defender Matthew Upson, meanwhile, said the team was happy to ignore Beckenbauer's comments. "If that's what he feels about our style of play that's his opinion," he said. "We'll play the football that suits us best and if it means we win games we'll play according to that."
Algeria, who have never faced England before, know that they too must win, having crashed 1-0 to Slovenia in their opening game, and captain Anther Yahia believes they can cause problems. "We have qualities which should shine through," said the 28-year-old, who plays club football for VfL Bochum in Germany. "We are going to pose problems for the English. We will be more ambitious (than against Slovenia) and it is a role that suits us better."
Algeria coach Rabah Saadane expects his players to give their all. "England are a superb team. I put them among my favourites. There will be very little change against them in terms of personnel, maybe one or two," he said.
Mohamed Raouraoua, president of the Algerian football federation, added that Algeria were not going to the match simply to lie down and surrender. "We are not going there just to make up the numbers," he said.