Sunday, June 27, 2010

Group C final group games

England 1-0 Slovenia

The game began with England knowing they pretty much had to win, and Slovenia knowing that a point would be enough. England came into the game with two draws after a poor showing against the USA and an abysmal showing against Algeria. Slovenia came in off an average game against Algeria they had managed to win, and a good performance in a pulsating 2 all draw against the USA. The biggest question was: which England would turn up?

It had been widely expected that Capello would finally change the tactics and play Gerrard off Rooney but it didn't quite happen like that. Instead he played Defoe ahead of Heskey and brought Milner into the right wing slot. Carragher of course was suspended so Upson got a start at centre-back. It was a 4-4-2 formation although I was sure Gerrard would drift infield quite a bit (and this would also allow Ashley Cole the freedom to attack down the left flank).

England ultimately put in an excellent performance in what was a commanding 1-0 victory. England constantly hassled and harried the Slovenian players throughout and created a number of opportunities. Milner was my man of the match - he had a fantastic game at right-wing and provided many Beckham-esque crosses. One of which produced the winning goal as Defoe stabbed home from close range.

Slovenia were disappointing. They had thrilled against the USA but they offered only a few off-key whimpers against England. Admittedly, even 1-0 down they were going to qualify while the other game was locked up at 0-0 but the USA's very late winner prevented that.

Rooney still hasn't stamped his mark on a game, England will be hoping for more from him in the second round.

USA 1-0 Algeria

Going into the match the USA knew only a win could guarantee progression. Algeria needed a win even more as this was the only way they could progress and even then they were dependent on the other result.

This game was an engaging affair as both teams looked to attack and to play attractive football. For Algeria Djebbour, Matmour, Ziani and Belhadj were creative, passed intelligently, had plenty of decent shots and played with a spark. Had I never watched this game and relied only on their first two performances at the World Cup I would have described them as a poor or limited side. But having seen this I would now say they are a very capable team who didn't show this until their final game.

The USA were also enterprising and creative which allowed for a free-flowing good game of football. Both sides hit the woodwork with Dempsey hitting the post and Djebbour hitting the bar but it was fitting that Donovan hit the winner as he had been the best player for the USA and possibly for the match. In injury time the ball broke loose in Algeria's penalty area and Donovan was there to slam it into the net, producing a massive moment of high drama and pure ecstasy for the Americans who all threw themselves onto the ground in a mass of bodies. The win had put them through to the second round, and in first place in their group no less.

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