Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Group C Preview


Strengths: Algeria, so some degree, are an unknown quantity at World Cup 2010. Many commentators suggest that they know less about them than most other teams. Most of their players do however ply their trade in Europe - generally lower ranked teams in the top tier or higher ranked teams in the second tier. Their undoubted star is Ziani. At age 27 he has amassed 55 caps for Algeria and has played for many French clubs, although he is now at Wolfsburg in Germany. A creative midfielder, his role is essential if Algeria are to create enough goalscoring opportunities.

Weaknesses: Since 2003 Algeria have only won two away games. Whilst the World Cup is a neutral venue this may affect them psychologically. Algeria have a weak strikeforce. None of them will strike fear into the hearts of their opposition. The best is Saifi, but at 35 is certainly past his prime. Their squad is not blessed with talent - they will work hard and defend doggedly but are not expected to shine.

Formation: likely to be 4-4-2

Manager: Rabah Saadane, an Algerian stalwart, is in his 5th spell in charge of the national side over almost 30 years.

Qualification: Algeria finished level on everything with Egypt in their final qualifying group. They both had 4 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss, scored 9 goals, conceded 4. This resulted in an unprecedented playoff between Algeria and Egypt to be played in a neutral venue: Sudan. Yahia scored the only goal of the game as Algeria conjured up a 1-0 victory that plunged their country into ecstasy.

World Cup pedigree: Algeria have only reached the World Cup finals on two occasions: 1982 and 1986. Both times they failed to progress from the first round. In 1982 they had a famous 2-1 victory over West Germany and almost qualified for the second round. They reason they didn't was farcical. In the last game between Germany and Austria, a 1-0 or 2-0 win to Germany would be enough for both teams to progress, any other scoreline would see Algeria through. Germany took the lead on 10 minutes and for the remaining 80 minutes both teams simply went through the motions. Algeria would love to progress from Group C and face Germany in the 2nd round - to try exact some revenge!

Chance of progression from Group C: 30%, will probably finish last.


Strengths: England's biggest strength is Wayne Rooney. If you didn't know that you've probably been hiding under a rock these past few years. A truism it may be but there is absolutely no denying that he is England's key player at World Cup 2010. England have quality all over the park. The likes of Gerrard and Lampard are excellent creative goalscoring midfielders, they have high quality wingers with the likes of Lennon and Wright-Phillips and versatility from players like Milner (who can play anywhere in midfield) and Carragher who has come out of retirement to help the cause. Cole is a top drawer left back and there is genuine strength in depth in a number of areas of the park.

Weaknesses: England do not have a settled first eleven. There is debate over the goalkeeper (James, Green or Hart?), over whether Heskey should continue partnering Rooney up front as he did in the qualifiers or if Gerrard should play behind Rooney. There is debate over the wingers and there is debate over the central defence, particularly now Rio Ferdinand has been ruled out of the World Cup. There are injuries as well: Barry has been battling back from his injury and probably won't be ready for the first game and Ledley King has hardly played a game all season. Right-back is the weakest spot because although Johnson is good at marauding down his flank his defence can be quite suspect. They are also in average form - scrambling to a 2-1 victory over Japan (courtesy of two own goals) being a striking example.

Formation: 4-4-2 if Heskey plays, closer to a 4-4-1-1 if Gerrard supports Rooney.

Manager: Fabio Capello. After a quality playing career in Italy that spanned around 18 years Fabio got into high-level management 11 years later. He has been with top clubs over his 19 years or so as a manager and England is his first international assignment.

Qualification: England comfortably topped their European qualifying group ahead of the likes of Ukraine and Croatia.with 9 wins and 1 draw from 10 games.

World Cup pedigree: This is England's 13th World Cup. They were Champions in 1966 and finished 4th in 1990. They have also been knocked out at the quarters on six occasions.

Chance of progression from Group C: 80%, probably in 1st. There is a reason David Beckham had a massive grin on his face when this group was drawn!


Strengths: Slovenia play a game of collective football which is effective. They have one of the best defences in Europe having only conceded four goals in their ten group matches in qualification. Their best attacking threat is Novakovic who scores goals and is a lethal dead ball specialist. Their captain and lynchpin Robert Koren is their creative playmaker who should provide opportunities for goals. Handanovic is also a talented goalkeeper.

Weaknesses: If we disregard Slovenia's result against the weakest European nation, San Marino, Slovenia barely managed a goal per game. They do not have any real household names - they have a number of solid if unspectacular performers throughout the european leagues.

Formation: Likely to be 4-4-2.

Manager: Matjaz Kez managed his local side Maribor for around six years (2000-2006), followed by the Slovenian U15 and U16 side for about a year. He has been manager of the Slovenian international side since 2007

Qualification: For a country of only 2 million people (and a national football stadium with only 12,435 seats!) Slovenia did exceedingly well to qualify ahead of the much fancied Czech Republic and Poland. They finished 2nd in their qualifying group (behind Slovakia) and had to overcome the mighty Russian side (managed by the brilliant Guus Hiddink) in a playoff. Two goals behind in the first leg this looked unlikely until they pulled a crucial away goal back towards the end of the match. This meant a 1-0 win would suffice in the 2nd leg, and a 1-0 win they achieved. With Dedic scoring at the end of the first half they defended famously to ensure progression.

World Cup pedigree: Slovenia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. It is Yugoslavia from whom they derive their footballing tradition. Slovenia first entered qualification for the 1998 tournament but have only made the 2002 World Cup finals. They lost all 3 games scoring 2 goals and conceding 7. They will hope to do much better this time around!

Chance of progression from Group C: 50%, I'm picking an upset though and reckon Slovenia will make the 2nd round (in 2nd place).


Strengths: In Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan the USA have two attacking midfielders who are highly experienced, highly skilled, very creative and at just about the perfect age to be in their prime. Whilst I have been heard to say that Donovan is over-rated (he has been) that has been due to a lack of consistency on his part. At the World Cup we're talking of just a few games and it would be just like Donovan to be really up for those occasions. They have an athletic and very useful goalkeeper in Tim Howard and a tall, imposing and dominant centre-back in Oguchi Onyewu. They have shown recently that they have what it takes to progress to the depths of a tournament having lost 3-2 to Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup (after being 2-0 up at half-time). Admittedly the Confederations Cup is a tournament barely worth being interested in but they did defeat Spain in the semi-finals, ending their 35 match unbeaten run.

Weaknesses: The USA lack true goalscorers up front. Altidore is the most highly rated but is fairly average from what I've seen of him. Watch him prove me wrong, he did top score with six in qualifying. Edson Buddle appears to have potential but at 29 still has less than a handful of international caps to show for it. Dempsey and Onyewu have been out with injury for long periods of time this season and some of their other European based players have found it hard to get game-time. Beyond their star names the USA have a fairly middling team who I don't think will quite handle the slick, pacy passing of the Slovenians.

Formation: Likely to be a traditional 4-4-2.

Manager: Bob Bradley. He has previously managed MLS sides and has been national manager since after the 2006 World Cup.

Qualification: The USA topped their final qualification group by 1 point ahead of Mexico. It was a relatively easy progression in what is a weak CONCACAF section.

World Cup pedigree: This is the USA's 9th World Cup and their 6th in succession. Their best finish was 3rd in 1930 and their second best effort was being knocked out in the quarters of the 2002 World Cup. In this game they lost to Germany 1-0 in a game which the USA dominated. Kahn made a number of great saves and Ballack scored the crucial goal. Frings also handled the ball on his own line which should have resulted in a penalty, but the Germans held on.

Chance of progression from Group C: 60%, but I reckon they'll miss out to Slovenia.

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