World Cup ’10 – Group C: Who Can Stop Fabio’s Fabulous English Machine?

With the biggest show on the planet around the corner,  TheHardTackle brings to you a special series that provides you with group-wise capsules of information on each nation. No more hiding away from discussions and debates, we promise to make you a World Cup scholar before the showcase event begins. The world is getting ready, are you?

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GROUP C
England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia

ENGLAND

Rank: 8
Best Performance:
Winners in 1966
Coach:
Fabio Capello

England and a major football tournament don’t quite go hand in hand, do they? It’s amusing how the British media time and again talks up their nation’s chances just before a major tournament. If one follows only the British media, one will end up wondering why other nations even bother sending their squads over. It’s apparently written in British heavens that England will triumph. These hopes and expectations never materialize in victorious forms on the football pitch, though. In fact, “The Three Lions” haven’t won a tournament of international reckoning since the famous “ghost goal” won them the coveted trophy back in 1966 in their own backyard. Since then, this passionate football nation has remained starved of success. How long before the nation with the best league in the world finally wins another World Cup?

Qualifying campaign

England finished top of their qualifying group that included the likes of Croatia and Ukraine. During the entire campaign England managed to amass a hefty total of 27 points out of a possible 30. The men from Britain also avenged defeats by Croatia during their Euro qualifying campaign disaster and did it in some style.

Strengths

The current English side is packed with world-class performers. The presence of Fabio Capello is England’s forte; the credibility that they lost during their failure to qualify for the last European championship has been restored. If the qualifying campaign is an indicator for things to come, Capello’s men can look forward to a good time in South Africa.

Perhaps the most vital factor to England’s performance could prove to be the form of their talismanic striker Wayne Rooney. After his most fruitful season on the domestic front, Rooney could yet do the unthinkable by guiding his beloved England to a rare trophy on the world stage. With the likes of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ledley King, there is no shortage of world class talent in the defense department. England also possess one of the strongest central midfields in the world which includes Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

Wayne Rooney England 2008/09

Boy Wayne – the key to England’s chances

Weaknesses

England’s perennial bugbear remains the absence of a world class shot-stopper. Ever since the departure of David James, the goalkeeping spot has been up for grabs. The assurance and calmness needed for such a vital position has been lacking in all keepers tested so far. Capello isn’t any closer to deciding whom to play in the opening match, perhaps the return of James?

Another startling chink in the armor is the lack of a proper defensive midfielder. England’s number one choice defensive midfielder and also their best player in the previous world cup – Owen Hargreaves – has missed the flight to Africa after missing out most of the season due to injury. It’s time for one of Michael Carrick, Gareth Barry and Scott Parker to stand up and be counted.

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out:
Wayne Rooney (Forward)
In the form of his life, Wayne Rooney has turned into a striker of international reckoning with a series of mesmerising displays that have caught the imagination of the watching fans. He was the country’s leading scorer in the qualifying campaign and the goals haven’t stopped flowing. Like every WC winner, one player needs to stand out and if England are seen lifting the trophy come July, then Wayne Rooney will be their main man.

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USA

Rank: 14
Best Performance:
Third place finish in 1930
Coach: Bob Bradley

There is a buzz in the American ‘soccer’ world these days. The expectations are going, especially since a brilliant performance in the Confederations Cup last summer which saw them beat Spain, but fall to Brazil in the final. Under the watchful eyes of coach Bradley, USA have played an attacking brand of football that has won them many admirers. They had a disappointing campaign in Germany’06 ending the group at the bottom, but this could be a World Cup where America starts taking soccer seriously!

CONFE CUP USA

We’ll name it the soccer world cup if they win!

Qualifying campaign

The Americans are easily England’s biggest threat to claim top spot in the group. They cruised through the first round of qualifying with an easy home and away win against Barbados. The second stage of qualifying involved T&T, Cuba and Guatemala in their group – none of which being footballing power houses. The fourth round was a real test of character and ability as USA proved their mettle, finishing top ahead of Mexico. One must remember USA has been the only team to defeat Spain – the world cup favourites in recent times.

Strengths

The US have a well-drilled blend of proven internationals and up-and-coming stars, their USP remains their brand of counter-attacking football that has been a success on the international stage. Players like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Jozy Altidore have top-flight experience. The American teams also have experience on their side as they have regularly been involved in such events.

Weaknesses

The US do not have any proven world class striker in their ranks. They have some exciting talent coming through like Jozy Altidore but still do not possess a player to send shivers down the opposition.

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out:
Landon Donovan (Midfielder)
The LA Galaxy star has been carrying his countries hopes and ambitions for a fair while now. Donovan performed brilliantly during his loan spell for English premier league side Everton. His performance from midfield could pay the way for the men from the Yankie land to progress.

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ALGERIA

Rank: 31
Best Performance: Yet to clear group stage
Coach: Rabah Saadane

Algeria have lately performed well in big tournaments – the African Cup of Nations being an example of their tenacity. The world cup, however, will prove to be a sterner test for the African nation. Wild celebrations were seen when they qualified for the World Cup, but the party has only begun. Can they somehow clear the group stages and rub more salt into Egyptian wounds?

Qualifying campaign

The qualifying campaign was a major success for the Algerians beating Senegal and African powerhouse Egypt in the process. Minutes away from qualifying, they managed to concede a goal to Egypt which tied the countries in every aspect of the points table; which meant a play-off match had to be played on neutral territory. Algeria won the match 1-0 as Antar Yahia scored to send the nation into delirium.

Algerian football team is back home with triumph - Algiers

Algeria celebrating qualifying like the world cup itself!

Strengths

The Algerians have an enviable defense that has proven too tough to be broken down. Antar Yahia and Madjid Bougherra are pillars of strength that make Algeria a tough nut to crack. The overall discipline and organisation of the squad sees them through matches.  

Weaknesses

Algeria has never progressed beyond the first stage in any of the world cups till date. The trend could continue to go on as they lack the cutting edge in front of goal – something they will definitely require against high-scoring teams.

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out:
Yazid Mansouri (Midfielder)
The captain of the Algerian national side is an efficient midfielder with an eye for goal and possesses the ability to spray the ball around effectively.

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SLOVENIA

Rank: 33
Best Performance: 4th place, 1962
Coach: Matjaz Kek

Slovenia are the dark horses in this group and well capable of beating anyone on their day. They managed to qualify ahead of more fancied football nations and should be taken seriously as they have the pedigree to cause one or two major shocks. After a disastrous campaign in 2002 which was a case study in destruction of team morale, the team would like to register at least a win this time around.

Qualifying campaign

Qualifying ahead of the more fancied Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Poland is no mean feat and that too with energy and effort to spare. Slovenia were just three points behind group toppers Slovakia, which earned them a play-off against giants Russia. Slovenia did not succumb to the pressure and booked their place into the finals on away-goals rule, at the expense of Russia.

Sports News - March 04, 2010

Slovenia downed the Czech Republic to reach here

Strengths

Undoubtedly the bedrock of Slovenia’s success has to be attributed to their miserly defense which was at its best during the qualifying campaign. Matjaz Kek’s team conceded just six times in twelve matches through the qualifying campaign.

Weaknesses

The team has punched above their weight making it this far. The occasion might get to them as its a big step for most of their relatively lesser known players. The fairy tell might just have had its final script.

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out:
Milivoje Novakovic (Striker)
The Cologne striker scored five times during their qualifying campaign and has experience of plying his trade in a big European league.

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THE FIXTURES:

Match Date – Time Venue Team A Team B
5 12/06 20:30 Rustenburg England v USA
6 13/06 13:30 Polokwane Algeria v Slovenia
22 18/06 16:00 Johannesburg – JEP Slovenia v USA
23 18/06 20:30 Cape Town England v Algeria
37 23/06 16:00 Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth Slovenia v England
38 23/06 16:00 Tshwane/Pretoria USA v Algeria

England are strong favorites to top this group. They have a squad with enough international experience and quality to top the group without much of a headache.

The USA on the other hand would surely be looking to stake a claim on top spot as they would look to challenge England for group C supremacy.

Slovenia’s qualifying form would give them hope, but reality is often stranger than fiction. The African nation would do well to get a single win but it is pretty hard for them to progress.

TheHardTackle’s VERDICT:

1. England
2. USA
3. Slovenia
4. Algeria

England has yet another chance to prove their critics wrong. It is not beyond them to go all the way through and win the most prestigious trophy in the game. However we predict a quarter final berth for the Three Lions, but don’t be surprised if Rooney-mania takes them to the promise land !

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  • MBFan

    Fabio Capello could not have hoped for an easier group than this. Eangland will surely go through.

    But will the eternal chokers be able to progress from Round-2 or at best QF? They might face Germany in 2nd round and Argentina/France in the QF.

    I always felt the bunch of English players to be largely overhyped, with the exception of, may be, Rooney and Gerrard.

  • Somnath

    Another problem for England is their right side. Johnson is hardly a competent defender & the right wingers are mostly advanced players, who won’t come down to defend.

  • Nipun Malhotra

    @ somnath England may adopt a 3-5-2 formation with wing backs, also if they dont i cant see a johnson and say lennon playing together on the right side. May b against easier opposition in the grouo stage but ceratinly not against the likes of spain, argentina and germany.

    Ledley King may be deployed as the DM if barry fails to recover.

  • Somnath

    It’s very difficult for anyside to play with 3 backs these days, especially if you have have a centre-backs, who don’t always combine well & a weak GK.

  • DarrenFletcher”football genius”

    Its such a myth when have England not performed atleast defensivley in a world tournament?? I mean lately its always been the curse or the lottery of penalties that have cost them.

  • redNblack_blood

    eng has always been a team studded wid star performers bt they hv always failed to perform together as a unit much like the indin cricket team of 90’s. i want to see them do well as thy are one of my favourites bt i cnt s;ee them going all the way.. i really want thm to bt they wnt :(

  • Spain are a classic example, befor Euro08 what had they ever achieved?? agreed they have the squad now, but favourites seldom win 😉