17 June 2010

England v Algeria 06.18.10

Live on espn2 at 2:30pm ET

Guess at the line-ups:
Johnson Carragher Terry ACole
Lampard Barry
Lennon Gerrard JCole

Bougherra Halliche Yahia Belhadj
Boudebouz Yebda Matmour Lacen Ziani

Group C Points Goal Diff
Slovenia 3 +1
England 1 0
United States 1 0
Algeria 0 -1

The two keepers have been the most newsworthy after each's respective howlers, (although Chaouchi might now be ruled out after picking up a "knee injury" in training yesterday), but there are multiple storylines for both sides. Both look likely to make changes in defense, midfield, and attack. England will fervently expect a win after Saturday's disappointment, while Algeria will probably be content simply to improve on their last showing.

Despite last Saturday's "heroics" (and my repeated clamoring for Joe Hart), I'd be stunned if Capello dropped Green. James doesn't appear to be fully fit, while it's become clear Hart's not trusted because of his age. And if you leave out Green, you might as well send him home now, for the same reason he wasn't substituted at halftime. That'd be his confidence shot, no matter how often he says he's experienced enough forget it and move on. The human brain does not work that way, even for goalkeepers with numerous loose synapses.

Regardless, having Gareth Barry back is the biggest improvement England can make. They desperately need a midfielder to focus on ball-winning and retention, a cool head to sit in front of the defense allowing Gerrard and Lampard to do what they do best. Gerrard didn't play badly against the US (Lampard on the other hand, as usual for England...), but he's still better when playing closer to the striker and free to focus on attack, rather than the rampaging box-to-box midfielder he really wants to be. See: his best moments with Torres when both were fit and Liverpool weren't sucking for other reasons.

The question is how he'll be accommodated. In place of Milner/Wright-Phillips, with Gerrard taking up his free role from the left (as often happened in qualifying), or in place of Heskey, shifting to a 4-2-3-1/4-1-3-1-1 with Gerrard off the striker (like at Liverpool), with Joe Cole replacing Milner/Wright-Phillips (just because it should happen)? Your guess is as good as mine. It needs to be one of those two systems, though.

King will also have to be replaced in defense, with Carragher, Upson, and Dawson to choose from. There are concerns about all three. Altidore repeatedly beat Carra like he was a surly stepchild. Upson's left-footed, as is John Terry, which can make for an awkward pairing. And Dawson's yet to earn his senior cap. That Carra was first off the bench on Saturday means he's most likely, but with Algeria likely to be pinned back, I'd be tempted to start Dawson, the most readymade replacement for King. If you're afraid to use him against the likes of Algeria, there's no point in his inclusion.

The other change Capello's mooted is Defoe for Heskey. Algeria will look to congest their own half, making it hard for England to find gaps, which could be an argument for Defoe. Still, outside of his usual inability to convert the one decent chance offered him, Heskey did what was asked against the US: throw himself about and win flick-on headers. Others failed to capitalize.

Algeria often played 3-5-2 in qualifying, but appeared to use more of a four-man backline against Slovenia. And despite the defeat, the switch "worked." It was Ghezzal's insane dismissal less than 15 minutes after coming off the bench and Chaouchi's subsequent Green-esque gaffe that caused the loss. However, you can't rule out Algeria reverting to three center backs with England likely to pose more questions than Slovenia (hopefully!). Young star Boudebouz should start on the right, as the Times suggests Algeria will revamp their attack after its previous dismal outing. The Guardian suggests that Algeria's formation will be closer to 4-6-0 with Djebbour miles off the pace, Ghezzal suspended, and substitute striker Saifi 35 years old.

Whatever tactics Algeria employ, it'll be England on the front foot, and England under the most scrutiny. Neither is a new phenomenon, but the response with the group up in the air will define this team.


drew said...

It is a damn shame that Algeria and not Egypt are in this World Cup.

Abhiram said...

I'll get back to you on this ... but if you had just written about the US-Slovenia game than this game !!!! :)