My daughter summed it up best, as five-year-olds tend to. "Do you want to win the World Cup?" she bellowed at the telly after a wholly uneventful quarter of an hour. Andy Townsend was more considered. "A little bit ponderous, a little bit slow," he observed shortly after. This is usually the critics' verdict on his punditry, but last night he was spot-on throughout the game.
"I think they do need a performance," he'd said at the start, discounting the possibility that this might be a pushover for England. He didn't specify what kind of performance, however, and he sounded worried from the off. "The question is how much Gerrard can influence the game from out on the left." And the answer was: not much.
A cameraman spotted a bird sitting on top of the Algerian goal. "Let's hope England can disturb that bird before too long," said Clive Tyldesley. The camera didn't go back to the little fella, but he could still have been there at half-time, and in the studio Adrian Chiles cracked a grim joke. "This bird knows a thing or two," he said. "The safest seat in the house."
In the studio with him were Patrick Vieira, Gareth Southgate and Kevin Keegan wearing a shirt with a collar that was pure Harry Hill. By way of a bit of light relief, as Chiles put it, the ITV team had tested what he called "the Jamiroquai ball." Cue Matt Smith smashing it straight at Chiles, who collapsed, pole-axed. "I can confirm that if it hits you in the jabalonies, it's very painful," he reported. Almost as painful as a rubbish draw against Algeria.
"It is going to get better," Chiles promised at half-time. "It has got to get better. Hasn't it? Positive suggestions, please," he pleaded with his panel. Get it to Rooney, said Vieira. Bring on Joe Cole, Keegan recommended. "They've got to throw the shackles off and believe in themselves," Southgate said. And they were all correct.
As it all dribbled away into nothingness, Tyldesley and Townsend were the Glummer Twins. "Instead of Gerrard as our left-sided midfielder, we've got Rooney," said Tyldesley in a damning tone as Fab the Fraud made a pointless substitution. Rumours that Rooney has had his Stereophonics tattoo changed in his team-mates' honour to "Just Enough Education To Underperform" remain unconfirmed, though Tyldesley's pay-off was dead right. "World Cup contenders? Not on this form."Reuse content