Saturday, June 5, 2010

Group C Preview

Group C is one of the most high profile groups because it has one of history's great rivalries renewed: Redcoats v. Americans. Yes, back on the day of the draw the US and England were put into the same group and the hype and discussion about their June 12 match-up will only continue to grow and expand as kickoff nears. However, there are two other teams in Group C that want to make their mark on international football, and one has the skill to do it.

Let's start with Algeria. They were one of the last teams in after beating Egypt 1-0 in a "winner advances to South Africa" match to advance out of qualifying. While the Desert Foxes (I love the nicknames of the African teams) did get past Egypt, they won't go much farther. Due to red cards in previous matches they will be without their starting keeper for the first two group games and without their star back, Nadir Belhadj for one game. These disqualifications compounded by injuries in the midfield will make advancing past the group stage nearly impossible. Like Greece, the Algerians will leave South Africa with nothing more than a "participation" award and a lifetime of memories.

The most intriguing team in Group C is Slovenia. A team described by manager Matjaz Kek as "having no outstanding players" is team personified. Kek has stuck with a starting eleven for nearly all of qualifying and their chemistry has payed dividend on the pitch. After upsetting Andrei Arshevin's Russian team on away goals the world was put on notice to the abilities of the Slovenes. They won't play the prettiest football in South Africa but if they can get by Algeria look for Slovenia to potentially steal a second group win and advance.

For the last thirty years people have been saying that football was about to turn a corner and take off in America. Well, it hasn't happened so far and if this team does what it did back in 2006 then any hope of a football boom in America might be dead. This year's American squad is packed with top talent that has an outside shot of making it to the semifinals. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will lead the way offensively while Oguchi Onyewu, Jay Demerit, and Carlos Bocanegra will key a defense that has the ability to lock down their opponents, like they did at the Confederations Cup last year. The x-factor will be Jozy Altidore. If he can play up to his otherworldly ability then the Americans will go places that were only dreamed about twenty years ago.

The last team in the group is England; need I say more. The Brits created the game, and like always have fielded a damn good team to live up to their home country's expectations. The Three Lions have the talent to go far, but the loss of captain Rio Ferdinand to a knee injury could shake up the team. However, the Three Lions will be eager to wash out the taste of failing to qualify for Euro 2008 out of their mouths. This year's incarnation of the English national team has plenty of firepower in Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard. However, they lack a solid goalkeeper and the defense could be on shaky ground with the loss of Fredinand. Also it should be noted that no team has ever won the World Cup when being managed by a foreigner, and this year England will be piloted by Italian, Fabio Capello. This year's English team won't take home the nation's second World Cup (1966 being the other), but look for at least a run to the quarterfinals.

Tomorrow: Could it be; yes, it's Group D

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