England’s footballers may have played horribly against Algeria on Friday night, but the performance of the nation’s broadcasters was also markedly average. In the first half both Radio 5 Live and ITV insisted that this was a must-win game, when anyone understanding the principle of a league understood that two draws and a win would see England comfortably into the last 16.
In case anyone is still unsure, the qualification criteria are below, copied from the FIFA website. All the commentators need to understand, however, is that England must either beat Slovenia on Wednesday, or take part in a goal-fest draw and depend on the US and Algeria also ending in parity, but scoring at least two fewer goals. Draws of 2-2 and 0-0 (or 3-3 and 1-1, etc) will lead to the drawing of lots.
One thing is crystal clear. England must score on Wednesday to stay in the World Cup. With Heskey never knowingly shooting, and Rooney’s first touch resembling that of one of South Africa’s few remaining rhinos, the BBC now faces the harsh reality that it may have transported 300 staff to the other side of the world for the pleasure of showing just one live England game, on a Wednesday afternoon. Against a back-drop of next week’s emergency Budget in the UK, if England fail to find the back of the net, it won’t be only our footballers returning home to a chorus of boos and red faces, with questions being asked about their value for money.
The ranking of each team in each group will be determined as follows:
a) greatest number of points obtained in all group matches;
b) goal difference in all group matches;
c) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches.
If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their rankings will be determined as follows:
d) greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;
e) goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
f) greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned;
g) drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee.