Barry could not stop Algeria's midfield swamping England

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The Independent Football

This morning we will all be saying what a good player Joe Cole/Michael Carrick/ James Milner (delete according to preference) is, for this was a good game to miss.

Much the same was being said about Gareth Barry after England's disappointing build-up matches and opening tie against the US but the Manchester City midfielder did not prove the alchemist hoped for. Barry did not have a poor game, but he did not influence the play in the way Gokhan Inler did for Switzerland against Spain.

He was involved. There were several last-ditch interventions which rescued England, especially in the first-half, but that is not good news. When England play at something resembling their best the likes of Barry do not get noticed; it is the fate of the defensive midfielder. Who is raving about Javier Mascherano at present? Yet he is holding together an Argentine team which consists of three central defenders and half-a-dozen offensively-minded players.

England, arguably, also have an attacking player too many. A 4-2-3-1 formation is the favoured shape at the top level these days with two holding midfielders. But Fabio Capello does not have enough anchormen to select from to construct such a team, especially given the fragile state of Owen Hargreaves' knees and Carrick's form.

So the responsibility falls upon Barry. He has not had a great season, his form dipping following his expensive move from Aston Villa to Manchester City. Eastlands, with its personnel and managerial changes, has not been the easiest place to compile a body of work.

Nevertheless Barry has become an instrumental player for Capello, which should give anyone's self-belief a lift, and footballers thrive on confidence. However, they also need match-sharpness and Barry has been out for more than a month. That can affect a player's ability to be on the pace of a game, and a half-yard can make a significant difference. It was not surprising that he made way before the end.

Barry was not helped by England being outwitted tactically. Algeria played 3-6-1, giving them a massive numbers advantage in midfield, the key area of the game.

So England were often over-run. Accentuating the imbalance was Algeria's technical superiority. Not for the first England came up against opponents who could control the ball with a natural comfort which seems alien to a generation of players who have grown up on a diet of match-play instead of working on their skills. England gave the ball away too easily, and, given Algeria's facility at keeping possession, found it harder to recover than they anticipated.

So it ends up, in this group of dearth, with England almost certainly requiring a win to reach the second stage. Slovenia, a country of two million people - less than the FA have registered adult players - ought to be a walkover. But they can trap and pass the ball. It helps.