CAPE TOWN - England manager Fabio Capello said he was mystified at what has happened to the spirit and technical ability of his team following their dire display in a 0-0 World Cup Group C draw with Algeria on Friday.
Having seen his team qualify for the finals in style, he has overseen two draws and needs to turn things round quickly in the final game against Slovenia to avoid a stunning first-round exit.
"In this game I didn't see the spirit of the team ... it was not easy to find pace to go forward," Capello told a news conference packed with reporters baying for answers.
"We missed a lot of passes, when we got close to the box, the proximity to shoot and make through passes for the other players, we missed everything.
Wayne Rooney, isolated and frustrated all night, said to TV cameras as he left the pitch. "It's nice to see your own fans booing you" but Capello refused to criticise his key striker.
"I don't want to talk about individual players - Rooney didn't play like Rooney but that is not the problem," said the Italian.
"This is the team which played good games in qualification but it is not so good like a team at the moment. I don't know if it's pressure or we're not in a good moment. We lost too many balls, it's not the same team I know."
Unfortunately for the England fans whose boos finally made them heard above the vuvuzelas, it was the team they know all too well - the one that qualifies well, gets the nations' hopes up, and then fails to deliver.
England now need to beat Slovenia in their final game to secure qualification and even that might only send them through in second place and into likely match-ups with Germany and, should they win that, Argentina.
"We have to be focused on the next game. We have a big chance after the draw for the U.S.. I hope that the mind of the players will be free and we can play like the England that I know.
"I can change the tactics, I will try to do something different. It won't be difficult to lift them before Slovenia. They know what they have to do."
Algeria coach Rabah Saadane was delighted with his team's performance, particularly after they had looked so nervy in their opening defeat by Slovenia.
"The situation in the group is still open for every team to qualify so we have to use our potential and play for that," he said.
"I said we would improve as time went by and that is what is happening and we are also growing in confidence and that is very important."
Asked what he thought of England, he summed up the feelings of everyone who saw the game. "I was expecting better," he said. "I don't know what happened and it's up to their coach to draw the necessary conclusions."comments