Draw keeps Algerian hopes alive
A dismal 0-0 draw on Friday night disappointed England fans in Cape Town but delighted the Algerians, writes Gregory Mthembu-Salter, rounding off a disappointing week for African teams.
Cape Town’s weather goddesses were at their mercurial finest on Friday, dishing up balmy, mellow sunshine to soothe visitors still reeling from the hail, wind and bitter chill of the last few days.
Massed ranks of England supporters quickly took advantage, and in the afternoon the terraces of Cape Town’s bars were filled with their shirtless, reddening flesh. England flags were everywhere too, on cars, on faces, and draped as cloaks.
Algerian supporters were much less in evidence, but they were there, wandering the city streets in small, highly vocal posses.
England flags dominated the Green Point stadium, displaying the usual eclectic selection of the names of the country’s small towns. I counted Jarrow, Keswick, Telford and Basingstoke among them, interspersed at intervals with Algerian flags, waved by cheering clumps of Algerian fans.
And then the match. England were astonishingly gutless, resolutely refusing to try and take control, preferring, it seemed, to leave this tiresome duty to Algeria. Algeria gamely tried to do just that, effortlessly containing Wayne Rooney, and relentlessly probing England’s defence. But, as against Slovenia last week, the North Africans’ chronic absence of a striker betrayed them, and England’s keeper David James was barely troubled.
It all ended a dismal 0-0, and I confess I was one of the fans booing England until shushed by one of my sons, who told me it wasn’t kind.
For Algeria though, the game was a complete result, giving the team a slim chance of going through to the next round if it can beat the USA.
It’s the same deal, of course, for the hosts Bafana Bafana. After their humiliating defeat by Uruguay on Wednesday, the team needs somehow to thrash France next week, and pray that either Mexico can beat Uruguay or vice versa to scrape through to the next round.
It has certainly been a tough week for the African teams, with Nigeria close to elimination after their second defeat, this time to Greece, and Cameroon today fighting for survival in their evening clash with Denmark.
Like their Ghanaian counterparts, Cameroonian fans have been one of the highlights of the tournament so far, out dressing and out drumming everyone, and one can only hope their team serves up significantly better fare for them then England’s long suffering supporters last night.