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Given all the soul searching that has followed England's insipid stalemate with Algeria on Friday, it seems flabbergasting that no-one has pointed out the one area where vast improvement is required to avoid the unthinkable this afternoon: set pieces.

Forget the thus far unsuccessful search for the real Wayne Rooney or the infernal debate over balance in the midfield - if England don't start to deliver more of a threat in dead ball situations they're finished.

Being able to deliver a free-kick or a corner with power and pin-point accuracy has been the thing that has set England apart in recent years. It has contributed roughly a third of all of our goals in major tournaments recently - two out of the six we scored in Germany, three out of six in 2002 and three out of seven in 1998.

I committed sacrilege yesterday.

Criticising this great collection of Spanish players, it would seem, is tantamount to treason in a World Cup year.

Well, when I say criticised I should probably put it in context. I was as mesmerised as the next person by Spain's balletic style as they pulverised a very weak Honduras side but I got decidedly irked by the hyperbole being lavished at their feet by ITV commentator Peter Drury.

The football has improved after a soporific start but even so, this World Cup is now destined to be remembered for what happened off the pitch rather than on it.

We've had sporadic instances of player power before (Roy Keane's exit in 2002, for example), but nothing like the tensions that have undermined the French and English World Cup campaigns.

On an explosive Sunday afternoon, the villainous French class of 2010 joined Harald Schumacher, Rivaldo and Frank Rijkaard in the World Cup hall of shame while certain members of England's 'Golden Generation' once again laid their breathtaking arrogance bare for all to see.

Lets be Frank - Lampard must go

By Mark Douglas on Jun 19, 10 11:30 AM

England's failure in Cape Town was so complete that it is virtually impossible to pin-point one distinct reason for it. Here, there and everywhere there was cause for concern as England combined with an equally ponderous Algeria to deliver quite possibly the worst 90 minutes of any World Cup in living memory.

But it seems clear to me that, in trying to accommodate one player of supreme ability, England are engaging in a folly of monumental proportions. I speak, unfortunately, of Frank Lampard.

Lampard has been an England regular for six years and in that time has delivered only a handful of performances that could truly be regarded as international standard.

Here's a quiz question for you, one that causes even those with an encyclopedic knowledge of football to pause for a minute before delivering the answer.

Whose penalty miss finally did for England in the penalty shoot out that followed their epic last 16 clash with Argentina at the 1998 World Cup? You got it yet? The answer, to save you from resorting to Google, is former Newcastle and Leeds war horse David Batty.

Funny how many people can't remember that, yet recall with pin-point precision that it was Gareth Southgate who rolled his spot kick meekly into Andreas Kopke's hands on that balmy night at Wembley in Euro '96, or that Stuart Pearce and David Beckham missed crucial penalties during England's exits from major tournaments in 1990 and 2004.*

I'm not oblivious to the teething problems of this World Cup, but I can't help feeling that cynicism is a bigger threat to this tournament that the ball, the vuvuzelas or the overly defensive tactics on show.

Granted, those three things have contributed to a slow beginning to a World Cup that arrived on a tsunami of hype and superlatives and is yet to deliver.

But I sensed a shift in the momentum of the tournament yesterday, a gradual moving through the gears after an underwhelming start. The Spanish struggle to break through a well-organised Switzerland side was fascinating to this observer, even if it was another triumph of regimented organisation over attacking flair.

I'm an unashamed fan of the official World Cup song 'Waving Flag'. The Somali-born singer K'Naan has pulled off the trick of writing a traditional African song but fusing it with enough Western influences to make it really accessible.

But if anything is rivalling it for space on my iPod, it is this effort by Leicester City fan Dave Henson. A paen to the Vuvuzela, his clever cover of Rhianna's Umbrella is more Flight of the Conchords than Weird Al Yankovic when it comes to comedy songs.

Jonas Gutierrez's World Cup could be over before it ever really got going, if you want to read the runes of Argentina's latest practice session.

Despite Diego Maradona's assertion that Gutierrez was the third name on his team-sheet before the tournament began, he was replaced at right-back by Roma full-back Nicolas Burdisso on Sunday and the Argentinian press are claiming that is the end of his World Cup adventure.

While it would be a personal blow for a fine player who inspires huge affection on Tyneside, it's fair to say that you won't see too many Newcastle fans complaining about Maradona's crazy attempt to turn an attacking winger into a defensive-minded full-back.

Nothing is guaranteed to send the English into paroxsyms of fear more than a strong German team and judging by last night's excellent defeat of Australia, that's exactly what we have in South Africa.

A young, fearless Germany moved the ball quickly, accurately and with conviction, seemingly picking off Australia at will with the kind of free-flowing movement that Fabio Capello craves in his Three Lions.

90 minutes against the weakest team in their group is not enough evidence to formulate a sound judgement but already they have the look of a team ready to write another chapter in Germany's proud World Cup history.

Fabio Capello's instincts don't usually let him down. Titles in Spain and Italy, along with a near perfect qualifying campaign, are testament to the granite-jawed Italian's ability to manage with distinction.

But the England manager's resistance to picking anyone with a less-than-healthy body of international experience is a blind spot that is already threatening to harm England.

They weren't terrible against the States on Saturday night, but they weren't that good either. America are no mugs but they were there for the taking after Steven Gerrard's fourth-minute goal in Rustenburg - England just didn't have the personnel to do it.

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