Group C: England, USA, Slovenia, Algeria
Perennial World Cup contenders England are the top-ranked team in Group C. Fabio Capello’s side are amongst the teams talked about as potential winners in South Africa and while expectations are always high when England compete at a World Cup, there is enough quality in the squad to suggest that this team have what it takes to go far.
The United States are looking to rebound from a group stage exit at the 2006 World Cup. Landon Donovan leads a U.S. team that looks primed to repeat their heroics of the 2002 World Cup where they made it to the quarterfinals.
Slovenia are back at the World Cup after an 8-year absence. There are no stars like Zlatko Zahovic this time, however this is arguably a stronger, closer knit team that won’t have the unnecessary drama of the 2002 side.
Algeria qualified for South Africa thanks to a play-off victory bitter rivals Egypt in Sudan back in November. Rabah Saadane has put together a good mix of domestic talent and French-born/French-based players as Algeria return to the competition for the first since 1986.
What Should Happen
All the talk in this group has centered around the opening match between England and the United States. This is one of the group stage’s most highly anticipated fixtures and regardless of the outcome, both teams should advance comfortably from Group C. With more experience and a deeper squad and with a world class coach in Capello, England are the favorites to take first place, while Bob Bradley’s men should have enough to claim second spot.
Slovenia and Algeria will need to play above themselves in order to have a shot at one of the top two places. More than likely these two will be engaged in a battle for a respectable third place finish.
What Might Happen Instead
A loss for either England and the United States in their opening match on June 12th could yet prove costly as tournament progresses. If there a winner from the Slovenia-Algeria match then suddenly one of the favorites will have their backs to the wall very early in the tournament. The pressure could then build from there and as we have seen numerous times in previous World Cups, it would be not be out of the realm of possibly for one of the big boys to get knocked out.
Certainly England vs. United States on June 12th in Rustenburg is the pick of the lot. It should be an intriguing encounter between two teams whose aspirations extend beyond the group stage. A win for either side could set the tone for a tournament to remember. Let’s also add Slovenia-Algeria to this too. Those two sides will play the next day and as we said, if there is a winner, then the Group C could become much more interesting.
Players To Watch
Cometh the hour, cometh the man and for England that man is Wayne Rooney. Without him England will not be able to win this tournament, however with a fully fit and raring to go Rooney then the Three Lions have a legitimate shot at World Cup glory.
Landon Donovan’s performances will also go a long way in telling us how the U.S. will do in South Africa. After a hugely successful loan spell in the English Premier League with Everton, Donovan enters this tournament full of confidence.
In a team where the collective is valued over the individual, Slovenia’s Robert Koren is the exception. Koren’s playmaking abilities gives Slovenia an extra dimension and his performances in the play-off against Russia were key in his country advancing to the World Cup finals.
For Algeria, all eyes will be on Karim Ziani. The Wolfsburg playmaker is the key to nearly all of Algeria’s offensive moves and if they are to spring a surprise it will more than likely be thanks to Ziani’s inspiration.
One Game, One World Prediction
Here at OGOW we have a strange feeling that this group will be a lot closer than people think. Algeria has proven to be extremely inconsistent since their qualifying campaign and don’t appear to have what it takes to qualify for the knockout round. Slovenia though appear to be a much more settled side whose unity and cohesion could prove to be a test for England and the U.S.
Still, it is too hard to look past these two favorites for the top spots in Group C. England are too good to not make the second round and we feel the same about the U.S.
England and the U.S. all the way, right? Can Slovenia or Algeria spring a surprise? Let us know your thoughts!