England v Slovenia Preview
By Matthew Duncan.
So it comes to this. The scenario that nobody thought would happen has arrived. England go into their last group match against Slovenia in Port Elizabeth needing a win to be certain of avoiding a humiliating early exit from the 2010 World Cup.
After the lack of a performance against Algeria and the subsequent rumours of ill feeling within the camp, the England players are under pressure to finally step up and play at a level somewhere near their undoubted abilities. Slovenia will hope that they will not end up regretting drawing with the U.S.A. after leading by two goals. Even if they slip up they have already exceeded expectations in their debut World Cup.
In the end Slovenia were lucky to escape from that game with a draw after Maurice Edu’s wrongly disallowed goal. Matjaz Kek’s side tired badly in the second half, something that will not have escaped the eyes of Capello or his players as they prepare to prove that they can actually stand up to the pressure of an international tournament.
One of the few incidents of any note in the match against Algeria was the booking of Jamie Carragher, an event which rules the Liverpool centre back out of this game. Fabio Capello has already confirmed to the press that West Ham’s Matthew Upson will step in to fill the gap, becoming John Terry’s third partner in the heart of defence.
Elsewhere in the team speculation suggests that Emile Heskey may be replaced by Jermaine Defoe and it remains to be seen whether Capello will pay any attention to John Terry’s calls for the inclusion of Joe Cole, although this seems unlikely after the Italian called Terry’s press conference comments “a big mistake.”
The majority of fans and pundits would prefer to see Steven Gerrard playing just behind Wayne Rooney with Joe Cole on the left of midfield, but Capello has never been one to bow to media pressure and it would be something of a surprise should he change his tried and trusted method at this point.
In other less important build-up news, The F.A. has confirmed that England will wear their red change strip for the first time in this tournament.
For Slovenia, a draw would be enough to see them qualify for the second round of a World Cup at the first time of asking. Captain and former West Bromwich Albion midfielder Robert Koren is the most recognisable name on their team sheet although England will also have to be aware of striker Valter Birsa who was superb in the Slovenian’s pulsating draw with the U.S.A. Defender Marko Suler looks likely to miss the match after injuring his rib in the U.S.A. match and will probably be replaced by Matej Mavric at centre back. Nejc Pecnik is also unavailable after the midfielder, who appeared as a substitute against the States, broke his ankle in training.
England will start the match as favourites to progress but on the evidence of this World Cup so far, that could inspire as much fear within the England squad as it does confidence.
Who would you play against Slovenia? Do you think that England will go through? Do they deserve to?
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