England bears the weight of expectation on their shoulders once again.
They have drawn, on paper, the easiest of all World Cup groups. Team USA, Algeria, and Slovenia await the former champion.
Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
Make no bones about it: England (World Ranking No. 8) is the overwhelming favourite to progress from Group C, and it is no exaggeration to say that only one player, Tim Howard from the USA, from their opposing squads would be good enough to make the Three Lions final 23.
Fabio Capello will hardly be able to contain his glee after being handed such a group.
England will not fear any of their opponents, and given their competitors' abilities, it should give Capello a perfect opportunity to give his squad players a game.
John Terry and company will also be keen to lock horns with the USA and delete that historical 1-0 defeat, thanks to Joe Gaetjens' header, in 1950. Losing Rio Ferdinand to injury may be a boon, as his likely replacement Ledley King had a much better season.
England is one of the most free-scoring teams in international football, having scored 34 goals in 10 qualifiers, with the majestic Wayne Rooney bagging nine.
Having made their sixth World Cup in a row, Team USA (No. 14) will be expected to push for the knockout phase of the tournament.
A solid team that is more than the sum of it's parts, Bob Bradley's side will be difficult for any team to break down. But they still lack a top-class midfielder, and that will be their downfall against well-organised opposition.
They will, however, take great comfort in their good showing in last year's Confederations Cup, and they'll be tough for any side to beat.
The position where America is weakest is up front. Neither Jozy Altidore nor Edson Buddle will frighten defenders in this group, and they may have to rely on set pieces and training ground drills to break well-drilled defences.
The underdogs of Group C, Algeria (No. 30), are more than capable of beating any team in this group.
While there will be distant odds on them qualifying, they do possess a team with players plying their trade all around Europe.
Any team that can go into an 80,000-fan cauldron against Egypt and still come out winners deserves respect.
Rabah Saadane's side has pace throughout the team and will punish any mistakes, so they won't be taken lightly. They will also be one of the most supported teams in the finals with a caravan of thousands following them to every game.
Slovenia (No. 25) is a mid-tier team in Europe who is capable of exposing the weaker opposition, but they also regularly fail against well-organised teams. They will be grateful for their group, but should not advance.
Matjaz Kek's side has a poor away record, and that could come into play in South Africa, as they will not have a following like other teams in their group. Their three opponents lead the race in ticket sales.
Their star player is Robert Koren of West Brom fame, and they'll look to eke second place by taking points from Algeria and the USA.
Group C Fixtures
Match (05) June 12- England vs. USA (Royal Bafokeng Stadium, 44,530)
Match (06) June 13- Algeria vs. Slovenia (Peter Mokaba Stadium, 46,000)
Match (22) June 18- Slovenia vs. USA (Ellis Park Stadium, 62,567)
Match (23) June 18- England vs. Algeria (Cape Town Stadium, 69,070)
Match (37) June 23- Slovenia vs. England (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, 48,459)
Match (38) June 23- USA vs. Algeria (Loftus Versfield Stadium, 51,762)
Players to Watch
Aaron Lennon (ENG), Karim Ziani (ALG), Robert Koren (SLV), Tim Howard (USA)
All four teams in this group wear white as their home strip and will have to change for their "away" fixtures.
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This article was first published on Tiger Beer Football where Willie Gannon is the featured blogger.
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