The draw for World Cup 2010 (South Africa!) is complete, and now we must wait for 6 months until the matches begin. But here at UF we are incredibly impatient, and have no fear of being proven idiots, so we are launching our Group previews. Who plays who, and where? Which players will we identify as vital to their country’s advancement only for them to be left off the roster in the next few months? Which country will we tab as the surprise of the group only to see them fail to earn a single point in the group stage?
Join us after the jump for generalizations, highly inaccurate predictions, and straight-up misinformation, won’t you?
Ned here, and who better to discuss Group C than an Englishman who lives in the U.S of A?
I must admit, I really wanted to avoid this draw. Most of my friends are American and quite frankly, I’m not a good loser (not that I think that’s a possibility) when it comes to England. This situation for the limey in the states is a ‘no win’ one for sure. The smack talk has begun already!
OK, more on that later, lets get the facts out of the way and see who’ll be heading home early in the fantasy World Cup in my mind.
June 12 – England v USA – Rustenburg – 2.30pm ET
June 13 – Algeria v Slovenia – Polokwane – 7.30am ET
June 18 – Slovenia v USA – Johannesburg – 10am ET
June 18 – England v Algeria – Cape Town – 2.30pm ET
June 23 – Slovenia v England – Port Elizabeth – 10am ET
June 23 – Algeria V USA – Pretoria – 10am ET
And on to the teams…
Coach: Super Fabio Capello
Current FIFA Ranking: 9th (Down from 6th in May, FIFA are f’ing idiots)
WC history: We all know the story and many think they know the script. Winners of the WC in 1966. Bobby Moore, Nobby Stiles, the Charlton brothers, Peters and Hurst and of course one of the most famous calls in any game by Kenneth Wolstenholme (see below). Since that magical summer England have been cursed at World Cups and my memory of every one since birth has ended with tears and controversy. The hand of God that coke- fuelled, fat, cheating bastard, the Beckham sending off, Campbell’s perfectly good disallowed goal and penalties. Always down to the penalties. Cue failure and the inevitable Pizza Hut commercial (once the country has calmed down) featuring the villain (Southgate, Pearce, Waddle etc) wearing a bag on their head in public. The story is an old, repetitive one.
How we qualified: England qualified in awesome fashion, winning all but 1 of their 10 games and scoring 34 goals in the process. That’s more goals than anyone else including Brazil who played 8 matches more! England conceded just 6 goals.
Players worth a mention: For me, England have finally got plenty of options and depth but we won’t win it without key players staying fit. Terry, Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney have all proven their worth and importance to Capello’s England and the fitness of these 4 will be key in how we do. Rooney especially. We won’t win jack without him hustling, supporting the midfield and bringing his team mates into the action around the box. The rest of the team will be fighting it out for the remaining places and the competition in wide area’s is refreshing. Beckham’s inclusion in the team is threatened by the pace of Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott, 2 players with a similar style that appears to be the way Capello likes to play. The major worry is in goal. David James is getting on and often crocked these days, Robinson has been a disaster in the past and for me, there is really only one option: Robert Green. He may be unfashionable in the world of football but he is consistent and deserves his chance.
Notes: I’ve been saying it for a while and I’ll say it again. 2010 will be England’s best chance of WC glory since 66. The weather climate will suit, the team is playing well and the squad pretty much picks itself give or take a spot or two. In Fabio Capello, England have found a manager who is passionate and smart. He arrived ready to organize and be listened to and the players have responded. The man has an air of victory about him and its been rubbing off. England should make the semi’s but I am hopeful of an appearance in the final. From there? I’ll make sure i have tissues.
Wolstenholme: “They think it’s all over”!
Country: Algeria (The Desert Foxes)
Coach: Rabah Saadane
Current FIFA Ranking: 28
WC history: 2010 is Algeria’s third WC finals after qualifying in 82 and 86. in ’82 Algeria won 2 of its group games, including the shock win over West Germany. They failed to make the second round as Austria lost to West Germany 1-0 in controversial fashion, criticized for not trying. This was the last time that the third and final group games were played at different times.
How they qualified: Algeria qualified after a fierce 2 games in 4 days with rivals Egypt. The Algeria team bus was ambushed in Cairo, injuring players before Egypt won 2-0. Four days later the return fixture was moved to Omdurman in the neutral Sudan where Algeria sealed a place in South Africa with a 1-0 victory as group winners.
Players worth a shout: Algeria have several key players plying their trade in Europe’s top leagues. Nadir Belhadj and Hassan Yebda at Portsmouth, forward Kamel Ghilas at Hull, Karim Ziani at Wolfsburg (46 caps) and Madjid Bougherra at Rangers in the SPL. Hameur Bouazza at Blackpool is also worth a mention. He looked set to be a star after a good spell at Watford and then Fulham but he never found a place in the first team at Craven Cottage and more recently has been on loan to Charlton before signing a one year deal at Blackpool. At 24, Bouazza has hit a rut in his career and not lived up to the hype surrounding him. That said, when he wants to play he can be very good.
Notes: Algeria are better than many think and England’s newspapers are guilty of dismissing the Desert foxes. I’ll hope that Fabio Capello doesn’t think the same way. I can see them slugging it out with the USA for the second spot in this group.
Coach: Matjaž Kek
Current FIFA Ranking: 33
WC History: Slovenia appeared in their first World Cup in 2002 in Japan (Slovenia became an independent state in 1991), failing to win a single game.
How they qualified: Slovenia finished second in group 3 with 6 wins to force a play-off with Russia from qualification group 4.
Players worth a mention: Slovenia are a very young team lacking experience. There are not many players I recognize from European football but the most recognizable is Robert Koren, the captain who has now been at West Bromwich Albion since 2007, playing over 100 games for the Baggies. (Ed. Note: don’t underestimate Aleksander Radosavljevič – no slouch in midfield)
Notes:Remarkably Slovenia conceded just 4 goals in qualifying. However, this does not mean that they be a dark horse at the World Cup. Inexperienced players and a lack of quality will prove the factor as they will struggle to gain a single point next summer.
Coach: Bob Bradley
Current FIFA ranking: 14th
WC history: Everyone is talking about the famous 1-0 victory over England in 1950 these days, but let’s focus on the ‘now’. The USMNT has done pretty well in tournaments over the last decade. The Gold Cup isn’t worth a rub, so we will ignore those and the B-team players they use in that waste of time competition and move on. Like England, they have been victims of a few dubious decisions in World Cup play. They made the quarter finals in 2002 losing to Germany and the talking point was a hand clearance on the line. The 2006 campaign was subject to some questionable non-calls against Italy as the team headed home from the group stage. Last year they made the final of the Confederations Cup (World Cup host nation warm-up competition) beating Spain and making the final. They lost to Brazil 3-2 but the gutsy performance was typical of American teams over the years.
How they qualified: The US always plays better in a tournament than in qualification and they really should have made easy work of their WCQ campaign. They won 6 games, lost 2 and drew 2 in a pathetic group that housed Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rico, El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago.
Players worth a mention: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Ricardo Clark will need to be at their best for the U.S to do well next year. Howard is the key figure in the team and without his incredible consistent performances, the U.S will struggle to keep a clean sheet.
Notes: The US should not be taken for granted when in a major tournament. They play with guts and heart, never knowing when to quit. The notion that that America will be an easy victory to most comes from all the crap competitions the country plays in, using duffers like Brian Ching, Robbie Rogers and Jeff Cunningham. Players that will not see an inch of South African turf. The Gold Cup and other competitions devalue the US team as many Americans see these games without realizing that the players on the pitch wouldn’t make the Brighton and Hove Albion 11. But in South Africa it will be different. The US has many players in top leagues these days, players whose clubs would laugh at Bob Bradley if he tried to take them to South America for a Gold cup game. These European-based players make up the real US national team and I expect them to make the second round next summer with 2 wins in round 1. From there who knows. A second place group finish would likely bring a meeting with Germany.
England 3 wins.
USA 2 wins.
Algeria 1 win.
Slovenia 0 wins.
The stand out fixture is obviously on June 12th when I am on an absolute loser.
I will be watching at a special UF event (news to come) and be surrounded by Yanks with just fellow limey James T for patriotic company. Should we win, I will be greeted with “Well that was expected, ho hum, on to the next”. Draw or lose and I’ll be the victim of more abuse and mockery than that bird who typed a sexy note to her one-night stand on her Facebook page by accident.