World Cup‘10 – Day 13: PREVIEW

 SLOVENIA
  v
   ENGLAND
Group C
Nelson Mandela, Port Elizabeth
23 June, 1930 hours IST (+0530 GMT)
 

The tournament enters a phase where each and every match is a virtual final by itself with no room for errors and no margin for goof ups. So far nothing has gone according to the preconceived notions that people had, as time and again big teams have come a cropper against not so threatening opposition. From the outset Group C seemed a rather straight forward one with the English and the Yanks considered favorites to storm through without breaking much of a sweat. Well how wrong could one be? As things stand now Slovenia lead the group but all four nations have a chance to go further in the competition. 

From England’s perspective it’s been a horror show so far. With the entire football world expecting them to come out all guns blazing, the Three Lions put in one of the most insipid performances in their history against the lowly Algerians. Since then the inevitable backlash by the media has followed and there has been disharmony in the British Camp, a hardly ideal preparation for the game. For all their lackluster showing, the silver lining remains the fact that Capello’s men still have their fate in their own hands. The point is simple – win against Slovenia and they go through without the hassle of any permutations and combinations. A draw however could make things a bit nervy with England needing to score heavily in case of a draw. Team news could also be of significance. With a fair few people from various quarters calling for Emile Heskey’s head, it would be interesting to see what Capello comes up with. Jamie Carragher is definitely ruled out  following  a one game suspension with Mathew Upson the favourite to take his place. 

Slovenia on the other hand have never had it this good. After a hard earned draw against the US, they are favourites to go through as they sit top with 4 points. Things could have been different though had Maurice Edu’s winner for the USA not been controversially disallowed. That said, Slovenia must themselves be ruing the chance to guarantee qualification after they were 2-0 up in the first half. However, the ball is still firmly in their court and that should be incentive enough to put on a good display against the faltering English. The mathematics for Slovenia is pretty simple –  a draw against England would be good enough to ensure progress into the round of sixteen and that should be music to Slovenian ears all round the world. If they do manage to loose against the toothless English, they could still progress if the United States and Algeria draw in Pretoria. The Slovenians would do well though to replicate their first half display and finish the job themselves. 

The group is set for a thrilling finish. England, for all their talent, haven’t arrived at this year’s competition and will be desperate to come out of their slump. A humiliating first round exit would send temperatures soaring back home and the aftermath could be disastrous. The Slovenians have already done much more than what any one could ask of them but the pressure is really on now. It would be intriguing to see if they come to the party or depart when things are really heating up. 

World Cup Head to Head Record: This is their first ever meeting in a World Cup. 

World Cup Win-Loss Stats:   
England: Played 57, Won 25 Lost 13, Drawn 19 
Slovenia: Played 5, Won 1, Lost 3, Drawn 1 

Other key facts: 
1) The only previous encounter between these two sides was a friendly game in Wembley in September 2009 which England won 2-1. 
2) England have failed to win any of their last five first round matches against a fellow European side. 
3) Wayne Rooney has failed to find the back of the net in over 10 hours of action for England. 

Player to watch out for: 
Steven Gerrard (England) 
The newly appointed England captain has a big task on his hands. Not only has the performance on the pitch dipped remarkably, but the infighting within the camp has also raised its ugly head. He needs to fire and set an example for the others. 

England's Steven Gerrard in action..FIFA World Cup 2010 Group C..England v Algeria..18th June, 2010.

England captain looking to lead from the front

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 ALGERIA
v
 
USA
Group C
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
23 June, 1930 hours IST (+0530 GMT) 

Algeria would be boosted by their fighting display against England; the hard earned point has given them a slim chance of qualifying. They should take heart from their performance as they dominated a much more fancied opposition for large periods of the game. Still the task at hand remains a difficult one for the African nation. USA were taken to task by the Slovenians in the first half but to their credit the Yanks turned the game on its head in the second half. They should have won it but for a horrendous decision by the referee to disallow a legitimate goal. They still have their destiny resting in their own hands though and that is all a team needs going in to the final round of matches. The Algerians played their heart out against England and should have gotten more out of the game if only they had more class in the final third. From the off, they looked more composed in possession and comfortable with their gameplan, not allowing the English mid field any space by playing a 4-5-1 formation and breaking at pace. They need everything to go their way if they stand any chance at all to progress. Nadir Belhadj showed plenty of acceleration throughout and was always looking to get the crosses in, causing Glen Johnson plenty of problems. In defence too he made several crucial interceptions. Karim Ziani was also impressive early on, pulling the strings in midfield, although he faded as the game went on. Algeria have to win by two goals to be certain of advancing, but having failed to score in the previous two outings, it is very hard to see where those all elusive goals will come from. USA have been patchy in this tournament by their own standards. While players like Altidore, Donovan and Dempsey have done well in the attacking department, it’s their defense which needs tightening up. Another 45 minutes like they had against Slovenia and they could very well say goodbye to their ambitions of progressing further. Michael Bradley was inspirational in the second half and needs to put in another impressive display to take the Americans into the next round of the tournament. The equation staring them couldn’t be any more straight forward – just win their match.  For all the neutrals, this is just the game to watch. Algeria have to come out and attack as they need to win by a big margin to progress while the USA, to their credit, always look to be offensive and that should provide a recipe for entertainment. 

World Cup Head to Head Record: This is their first ever meeting in a World Cup.

World Cup Win-Loss Stats: 
  
USA: Played 27, Won 6 Lost 16, Drawn 5 
Algeria: Played 7, Won 2, Lost 3, Drawn 2 

Other key facts:
1) If they win it would be Algeria’s first qualification to the knockout stage of a World Cup, while the USA could make it past the first round for the fourth time in their history. 
2) With his next World Cup appearance, Landon Donovan will equal the USA’s all-time record of 11 appearances at the WC finals, currently held by Cobi Jones and Earnest Stewart. 
3) Algeria have failed to score a single goal in their last four World Cup matches. 

Player to watch out for: 
Clint Demsey(USA ) 
Dempsey generally steps up his game when a big occasion comes calling. He delivered against Spain and Brazil in the Confederations cup and will be called upon once again to guide them through. 

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GHANA
v
GERMANY

Group D 
Soccer City,
23 June, 2330 hours IST (+0530 GMT)
 

Ghana have survived well so far from the “group of death” and things are under their own control going into the final round of matches. They benefited hugely from the handball incident in the first game against the Serbs and in their second fixture the opposition were a man down for a large part of the game. Lady luck has shown on this African nation so far and if things continue to go their way, a place in the knockout rounds is well within their reach. Germany have already gone through a varied range of emotions. After a mesmerizing display against the Socceroos, they were brought down to earth by a stubborn Serbian display. Still nothing is lost and a good showing now would erase those bitter memories of the defeat against Serbia. The Ghanaians have put on a sterling display so far in this World Cup. They have silenced the doubters that questioned their resilience in the absence of their most talented player Michael Essien. Now all that remains is another top drawer display against the European power house Germany and they would be through for sure. Mathematically, if Ghana draw with Germany, they will be through and even a defeat would be good enough as long as Australia win but without knocking up a big score against Serbia. Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan’s credentials have been questioned in recent months but he two goals in two World Cup games to his credit, albeit both from the penalty spot. Gyan put in a purposeful performance and was a menace against the Australians. The Hard Tackle chose him as the man to watch out for and he showed everyone just why. The Germans, for all their brilliance in the opener against Australia, where relatively poor against the Serbs though the sending off of Klose undoubtedly had something to do with it. Podolski was a threat down the left but missed too many chances to get Germany back in the game. The focal point of the attack after the sending off, his penalty was poor and his attitude was not impressive either. Ozil too waned off in the later half of the match and Germany were left to ponder what could have been.  The equation facing them is not quite insurmountable by any means. Germany would advance with a win and a draw should be enough unless Serbia wins. Klose would be ruled out of this one following his red card and with him the centre fugal force of their attack. That said, one should count the Germans out on their own peril. Both teams know a win guarantees progress and even a draw may just be enough, but nobody would be resting on their laurels and the match should be highly enthralling. 

World Cup Head to Head Record: This is their first ever meeting in a World Cup.  

World Cup Win-Loss Stats:
 Ghana: Played 6, Won 13, Lost 2, Drawn 1 
Germany: Played, Won 92, Lost 19. Drawn 19 

Other key facts: 
1)   The only previous encounter between these two sides was won 6-1 by Germany in 1993. 
2)  Against Serbia, Germany lost their first World Cup group game in 24 years. In the preliminary stages of the 1986 World Cup they were beaten 2-0 by Denmark. 
3)  Ghana have won their last two games against European sides at the World Cup finals, without conceding a goal. 

Player to watch out for: 
Mesut Özil (Germany) 
 The midfield lynchpin for Germany, he was the spark behind most of the German attacks in the first game. After a bright start his effect was reduced in the match against Serbia around the hour mark and without him the German attack was rather blunt.  

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AUSTRALIA
v

SERBIA

Group D

Mbombela, Nelspruit

23 June, 2330 hours IST (+0530 GMT)
   

Australia have probably the most difficult task at hand of the four teams in group D but atleast they have some semblance of a chance.  They have been on the wrong end of some harsh referring although some blame must go their way too. Serbia got their campaign back on track by pulling of one of the shocks of the tournament by beating the much favoured Germans. Serbia were extremely lucky in both the sending off and the penalty save, but they knuckled down once they had a man advantage although they offered very little by way of attacking intent. The result was all that mattered for them, but it was disappointing to see them fail to take control once Klose was off. The permutations in this group mean that each and every goal could be like gold dust. Australia faces a daunting task not only in the form of Serbia but also because their destiny is no longer in their control. There performance against Ghana was much improved and with eleven Aussies on the field the outcome could have been different. Australia found themselves down to ten men for the second game in succession but refused to buckle this time, and could have snatched an unlikely win in the latter stages.  Harry Kewell would be serving his suspension but the inspirational Cahill would be back for this decider. It looks rather tough for Australia. If they win and Germany loses, they advance. If Germany does not lose, they will almost certainly need a big win over Serbia.  Serbia gave themselves a life line by upsetting Germany. The footballing gods were kind to Serbia as the win was scarcely deserved. Serbia for all their defensive prowess looked toothless in front of goal with the exception of Milos Krasic. Krasic’s guile and skill down the right made German defender Holder Badstuber’s afternoon a fairly torrid one. His cross to Zigic provided the goal and he was a constant threat even when Serbia sat back and defended. They would rely on Krasic once again to provide the goal scoring threat. The inclusion of Subotic was also a good move and one that should have come earlier. The Serbians need a win to guarantee qualification although a draw might be good enough if Germany loose. A mouth watering clash is in store for football lovers. This group was always going to be tough to call and not even a hard core betting man can tell us which way things would go. Australians never give up but this might be a task too hard even for the Socceroos. 

World Cup Head to Head Record: This is their first ever meeting in a World Cup. 

 World Cup Win-Loss Stats:  
 Austrlia: Played 9, Won 1, Lost 3, Drawn 5 
Serbia: Played 2, Won 1, Lost 1. Drawn 0 

Other key facts:
1)  Serbia have kept a clean sheet in six of their last 10 internationals. 
2) Australia have had four players sent off in their three World Cup participations 
3) Serbia have lost all three games against non-European sides at the World Cup, conceding 10 goals in the process. 

Player to watch out for: 
Milso Krasic(Serbia) 
The only Serb who looked good going forward, the CSKA Moscow winger has been setting Europe alight with his fabulous displays on the wings and his form finally came good for Serbia against Germany. One more good display and Serbia would be in the round of sixteen.