Those England players who managed to tear themselves away from the snooker on BBC2 to tune into Eurosport yesterday afternoon will have seen their future World Cup opponents Algeria humbled and outclassed 3-0 by a side ranked 73 places below them.
Algeria were completely outplayed by the men from Malawi, who are ranked 99th by Fifa but possessed far greater spirit, invention, organisation and technique than their more celebrated opponents.
England face the Desert Foxes in Cape Town on 18 June in their second group game and Fabio Capello's side will encounter little resistance if the Algerians play as badly as they did yesterday in a near-empty stadium in the Angolan capital Luanda. Anyone trying to find weak areas in the Algeria side would have been spoilt for choice: the defenders failed to mark; the goalkeeper was atrocious; they lacked pace and lost heart; the midfield provided little cover for the back four; they were out-muscled far too many times.
The understanding between the players was so non-existent they looked like a side that had never played together before. Team-mates ran into each other and passes were misread, opponents were left unmarked.
Goalkeeper Fawzi Chaouchi was as bad as his haircut – shaved bald except for an inch-wide strip of hair as a fringe – and was responsible for Malawi's first and third goals, scored respectively by Russell Mwafulirwa and Davi Banda (who was definitely not the David Banda adopted by Madonna a couple of years ago).
Sandwiched between was a stunning header by Elvis Kafoteka, after the Algerian defence had left him free at a corner.
There were few positives for Algeria who lined up in a standard 4-4-2 formation, with target man Abdelkader Ghezzal their primary attacking weapon. The striker, who plays for Siena in Italy's Serie A, worked tirelessly up front, and was lively and determined but rarely threatened the Malawi goal. A poor man's Emile Heskey.
The only other player to show much invention was the Portsmouth left-back Nadir Belhadj, who zipped up and down the left flank and whose crosses provided Algeria with their most likely scoring route.
Much was expected of playmaker Karim Ziani of Wolfsburg but he is not quite as good as he thinks he is and all too often he was guilty of trying too hard to impress.
At the final whistle the Algerians trudged off the pitch like a team who couldn't wait for this tournament to be over. The England players can have flicked back to Stephen Hendry against Shaun Murphy thinking they can hardly wait for another, more important, tournament to begin.Reuse content