There was no happy birthday for Fabio Capello in Cape Town as England were booed by their own supporters following a dreadful performance against Algeria that leaves them needing to beat Slovenia to guarantee their World Cup progress.
Although they exerted some late pressure, if Capello's men had denied Algeria a point it would have been a massive injustice on a night when Franz Beckenbauer's assessment of England being a "kick and rush'' team was proved to be false. They weren't as good as that.
The maths are now quite simple. Beat Slovenia - when they will be without the suspended Jamie Carragher - in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday and England have scrambled their way into thes econd round. Fail and in all probability they will go home.
Having told the world he would not confirm the identity of his chosen goalkeeper until two hours before kick-off, it transpired Capello's mind had been made up by the final training session on Thursday night.
A couple of mistakes from Rob Green were enough to convince Capello the West Ham man could not be trusted, so David James was in for his first competitive start in 15 months.
Really though it was supposed to be a watching brief for the man who stood between the sticks. Against a side ranked 30th in the world, and from a continent that has never beaten England, in front of Prince William, the Three
Lions were supposed to deliver a performance fit for a king.
How wrong that assumption was. England's lack of guile was embarrassing at times and it took Capello's men until three minutes before the break to retain possession for any decent period.
Every time they got hold of the ball, it seemed England were in a rush to get rid of it, or at least try to force something to happen, which ultimately amounted to the same thing.
Wayne Rooney did not appear fit and he certainly endured a frustrating time of it. Penalised after two muscular tangles, England's talisman eventually managed a shot when the opening period was in its death throes. Like so many England efforts, it was struck from the edge of the area and posed little threat.
The best chance fell Frank Lampard's way after Aaron Lennon's cross had been half-cleared by Rafik Halliche but it was saved.
For the first hour Algeria were the more inventive side. They were quicker, slicker, possessed greater imagination and incisive movement. In short, they were superior in all the technical aspects of the game.
After waiting so long for Gareth Barry to recover from his ankle injury, the England boss watched his preferred holding midfielder lose the ball to Karim Matmour.
Possession was quickly transferred upfield and after cutting inside Glen Johnson, Karim Ziani - a menace throughout - drilled his shot into the side-netting rather than testing James fully with the controversial Jabulani ball Capello hates so much.
The Italian could not have been happy, and the England supporters certainly weren't. And the second half did not start any better.
Steven Gerrard and Lampard both wasted possession after finding themselves in decent positions, while at the other end Carragher stuck out an arm to deny Hassan Yebda a chance to race into the box and was booked.
The yellow card had additional significance and means Capello must either turn to Matthew Upson for next Wednesday's encounter with unbeaten Slovenia, or hand Michael Dawson his debut.
Finally England's fitness was allowing them to dictate the game. Yet old failings remain and the introduction of additional pace in the form of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermain Defoe could not rectify them.
After 83 minutes of fruitless toil, Capello turned to Peter Crouch. Back to the long ball, but even that did not work and Algeria stood firm, even coming close to winning the game themselves moments from the end.
Belhadj whipped a dangerous ball into the box, but with three Algerian players loitering with intent at the back post, James clung onto the ball like his life depended on it.