England coach Fabio Capello would have hoped for a better birthday present Friday as he watched his side being held to a dreary 0-0 draw by Group C minnows Algeria in Cape Town, South Africa.
Neither team produced many quality chances in a game that disappointed the 64,100 spectators crowded into Green Point stadium, and led the England fans to produce a chorus of boos as their dejected team trooped off the pitch.
With neither side having won any games so far – and Algeria having failed to score at all – the result means both have slim chances of advancing from the group. A victory for England in its final game against Slovenia would see them definitely qualify, however.
The 1966 world champions, whose Italian coach turned 64 on Friday, now have two points from as many games. Algeria – returning to the World Cup for the first time since 1986 – has only one point after losing its opening match against Slovenia.
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Capello said he was mystified as to why England, who breezed to qualification with much the same side, was suddenly struggling to perform.
“We missed a lot of balls . . . we missed a lot of passes,” a gloomy Capello said after the match. “I don’t know if it is the pressure. This is not the England I know.”
The big news came before the match as under-fire England goalkeeper Robert Green, whose blunder cost his side victory against the United States, was replaced by veteran David James.
“There are no excuses,” said England captain Steven Gerrard. “That was not our level.”
Serbia 1, Germany 0: Germany went from indestructible to self-destructive.
Milan Jovanovic made the most of it, scoring one minute after German striker Miroslav Klose got ejected to give Serbia the upset over the three-time champions.
After routing Australia 4-0 in the tournament’s most impressive debut, Germany lost its momentum when Klose – the leading scorer at the 2006 World Cup – picked up his second yellow card.
Jovanovic scored a minute later, controlling a header and firing in a side-foot shot from directly in front of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
To make matters worse for Germany, Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic stopped Lukas Podolski’s penalty kick in the 60th minute. It was Germany’s first missed penalty in regular World Cup play since 1974.
“It was my fault. I missed,” Podolski said. “I accept responsibility and I don’t want to dwell on it.”
Often considered the weak link on Serbia’s team, Stojkovic read Podolski’s penalty by diving to his left.
The goalkeeper grabbed the ball when the game was over and stuck it under his jersey.
Serbia was part of former Yugoslavia, which played Germany six times in a World Cup and only won in 1962 – 48 years ago.
“The second half was not 45 minutes, it was like two years for us,” Jovanovic said. “We beat Germany after 37 years, and it’s something real big for us.”
Spanish referee Alberto Undiano handed out a tournament-high nine yellow cards.
“The referee made some strange decisions,” said Germany captain Philipp Lahm, one of those who was penalized.