FIFA World Cup 2010: England Expects After Favourable Group Draw
Prior to the draw Fabio Capello had defiantly insisted that England would not fear a group of death should they be drawn in one.
Yet in any event, after a World Cup group draw which saw England avoid the potentially dangerous France, Portugal and Ivory Coast, one would expect the Italian to enjoy the hospitality on offer in South Africa with a great deal more relish.
While comparisons between the respective groups do little to help predict where the victors of the tournament will eventually come from, England need only look at the likes of two of their fellow top seed teams, Brazil and Germany to feel pleased with their lot.
Yet the one thing you can count on Capello not allowing to creep into England's mindset is complacency. Arrogance and overconfidence are not the Italian's forte-he deals in a more rational perspective which will insist that England approach their group passage with a reasonable amount of caution, but also an understated confidence.
Certainly, though their group may not rank as one containing plenty of potential pitfalls compared to others in the draw, there is plenty there to still caution against over confidence.
The names of USA, Algeria and Slovenia may not pack the punch of a Mexico, Ivory Coast or Australia but, bigger and better teams than England have fallen by the wayside against lesser opposition.
Here, we take a look at what awaits England in South Africa:
The last time these two teams met in anger it was 1950 and Joe Gaetjens made World Cup history in defeating the much fancied English in Belo Horizonte. Yet fast forward sixty years and the two must be the favourites to qualify from Group C, especially in the wake of their excellent Confederations Cup campaign where they disposed of favourites Spain and lost narrowly to Brazil in the final.
For England, familiar foes come in the likes of Everton's Tim Howard, Fulham's Carlos Bocanegra, Watford's Jay DeMerit, Fulham's Clint Dempsey and Hull City's Jozy Altidore. Yet it is not only the men plying their trade in the Premier League who England must fear.
Landon Donovan's reputation precedes him, and understandably so. While centre back Oguchi Onyewu plies his trade in Serie A with AC Milan and Michael Bradley has a burgeoning reputation which can only be improved further in South Africa.
Despite making heavy weather of the game which sealed their qualification, narrowly beating Honduras 3-2, the USA were the dominant team throughout their qualification campaign. Bob Bradley's team enjoyed wins over main rivals Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica to top their qualification campaign.
Landon Donovan has been labelled America's key player so many times it has become practically clichéd, yet there is little doubt the 27-year old striker remains a key component in Bob Bradley's team.
The fourth most capped player in US soccer history, and their record all-time goal-scorer, Donovan may not have lived up to the promise that he showed when he won the golden ball at the 1999 U-17 World Cup. As he enters his third World Cup, his importance to Bob Bradley's team cannot be underestimated.
Their most recent meetings have been limited to friendlies, and their most recent meeting saw England dispatch the USA 2-0 at Wembley courtesy of goals from John Terry and Steven Gerrard. Then prior to that, another friendly match in Soldier Field, Chicago also yielded a 2-0 win for England in a match which was most famous for a stunning brace from Kieran Richardson.
England's last defeat against the USA came back in 1993, when an experimental England team managed by Graham Taylor were comfortably dispatched 2-0 by a USA team which featured the likes of Eric Wynalda, Cobi Jones and Earnie Stewart, with the goals coming from Thomas Dooley and Alexi Lalas.
Of all the African teams, Algeria was probably the lesser known to English fans. But while they may not boast the individual talents of Didier Drogba, Michael Essien or Obafemi Martins, the Algerians are certainly not at the World Cup to make up the numbers.
This is their first World Cup since 1986, but they are very much a coming force in African Football and their current FIFA ranking of 28 is the highest in their history, and suggests that they should be written off at their peril.
Les Fennecs or the Desert Foxes as they are known, boast some high class individual talent, including goalkeeper Lounes Gaouaoui, Rangers centre half Madjid Bougherra, Portsmouth duo Nadir Belhadj and Hassan Yebda, creators Mourad Meghni and KarimZiani and Hull City striker Kamel Ghilas. England would do well not to underestimate the plucky underdogs from North Africa.
Qualification was sealed in the most dramatic, highly charged circumstances as Algeria ground out a 1-0 playoff victory over a highly fancied Egypt side to seal their place in South Africa. This came after the two teams had drawn their qualification group courtesy of Egypt's 2-0 defeat of Algeria in Cairo which took them into their dramatic one-off playoff.
Algeria had earlier overcome the likes of Senegal, Gambia and Liberia to qualify top of their qualification Round Two group. Then, with a 100 percent home record in Round Three, and enjoying a 2-0 away win over Zambia, Algeria sealed qualification.
A team short on recognisable star names, boasts one playmaker of genuine substance in Karim Ziani . A familiar figure in French football for many years, having progressed from Troyes to Sochaux to finally peaking at Olympique Marseille.
Now at German champions VfL Wolfsburg, his quality and importance to Algeria cannot be underestimated. He may not provide goals, with only four goals in 46 internationals, but Ziani is a classy operator who could give England a few headaches.
Their tie, which will be the second match for each team in the group, will be the first meeting of the two teams in all competitions.
They maybe the minnows in Europe's big pond, but Slovenia showed they are more than capable of frying bigger fish when they disposed of the highly fancied Russians in their play-off victory.
This may not be a team which has the stars of Slovenia's yesteryear-when the likes of Zlatko Zahovic and Milenko Acimovic qualified in 2002, but they are a well-organised, robust outfit whose lesser qualities are more than made up for by an excellent team ethic and a robust defensive unit.
That is not to denigrate the talent they have at their disposal. Certainly in the hard-running Zlatko Dedic and Milivoje Novakovic, they have a midfield partnership capable of causing problems.
Meanwhile West Bromwich Albion midfielder Robert Koren pulls the strings in midfield, and in Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, they arguably have the finest goalkeeper out of all three teams.
England fans will have recent memories of facing them in a friendly at Wembley Stadium, where they were defeated 2-1 courtesy of a Frank Lampard penalty after a disputed foul on Wayne Rooney.
The Slovenes finished in second place in their qualifying group behind Slovakia, however they did manage to finish ahead of bigger names the Czech Republic and Poland, notable scalps both of them. However, this was nothing compared to their next scalp-Russia.
Despite being comprehensively outplayed by the Russians in their first leg in Moscow, substitute Nejc Pecnik's 88th minute away goal would prove decisive. In the second leg, Zlatko Dedic grabbed the winner in the 44th minute before Russia imploded withKerzhakov and Zhirkov sent off late on, as Slovenia held on to secure a famous win.
In a side short of goals, Slovenia will be hoping that striker Milivoje Novakovic can take any chances which comes his way. 13 goals in 36 internationals, including a brace against Slovakia, prove that the 30-year old is certainly capable. However Slovenia will hope he can resolve his domestic situation, having recently been embroiled in a dispute with club side FC Koln.
The aforementioned match against Wembley on 5 September 2009 was the first meeting of any kind between these two nations. A keenly disputed Frank Lampard penalty and a Jermaine Defoe goal were enough to give England the win, despite a late goal from Zlatan Ljubijankic. However Slovenia only played their first match as a country in 1992, having been part of Yugoslavia previously.
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