FIFA World Cup 2010, Group C: England vs Slovenia – England through to the Next Round
England have finally made it to the final 16 of the World Cup by beating Slovenia 1-0 in their final group game. It was by no means a convincing performance by the Three Lions, but it did get the job done. England stuck to their task and came away with a much needed win, in the end qualifying 2nd from Group C. USA also travel to the 2nd round from the same group courtesy a 1 nil win against Algeria. United States top the group with 5 points, 3 Goals Against, and 4 Goals For.
England started their most crucial match against Slovenia with a 4-4-2 formation. Slovenia, who were not believed to be much of a competition, started by playing a very high tempo game, doing all they could to put England under pressure right from the start.
Glen Johnson started poorly, mis-kicking twice in the early stages, and also committing asinine fouls. The Liverpool defender was lucky to avoid a yellow card after he brought down Andraz Kirm, but would have to be careful from now on.
Slovenia looked dangerous; Valter Birsa looked to be on his game. A 20 yard strike on target was saved by David James, but Slovenia made their intentions clear.
England looked a bit desperate in the first 15 minutes, diving needlessly; the next player to escape a booking was Gareth Barry after a lunge on Aleksandar Radosavljevic.
England made some good moves as well in the first 20 minutes, but the final pass is what was lacking; there was a sense of nerves to say the least. The final pass was more times than not rushed, when all they needed to do was to wait for the front man to be free before making the killer ball.
Frank Lampard tried an ambitious free-kick form 35 yards, but Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovic handled it with comfort.
But the period of domination finally paid off in the 23rd minute, as James Milner on the right charged down, and put in an inch perfect cross for Jermaine Defoe, who powered his way through to the centre of 6 yard box and volleyed it home over the keeper. The keeper could have done much better.
The goal calmed down a lot of nerves not just for the team, but for million fans back home who feared the worst. England gained huge confidence from that goal, and moves started coming one after the other.
Just before the half hour mark, Defoe almost doubled the lead, but the Slovenian keeper made a stunning save, but Rooney laid it off to Gerrard from the rebound, and another good save kept the score at 1 nil.
The final 15 minutes of the half, though, saw the momentum drop to a degree. There were not many moves to talk about, but England did maintain a Lion’s share of the possession.
On the 41st minute mark Slovenia got their best chance: a 40 yard free kick was deflected towards the goalpost, but James made a half save and was relieved to see the referee blowing the whistle for infringement.
The first half ended on a positive note for England, and the decision to start with Defoe certainly looked to have changed a lot of things up front.
In the 2nd half, England were much more circumspect; there was not the same drive and aggression as seen in the first half. With the passage of time, though, England once again started to gather momentum. Their ace striker Wayne Rooney was once again disappointing; his touch looks to have simply deserted him. Rooney missed a golden opportunity in front of goal while he was one on one with the keeper.
Capello decided to take him off and put on soon to be former Chelsea man Joe Cole. Cole, unlike Rooney, started playing on wide side of the pitch. There were a number of good moves created between Cole and Milner on the right wing.
England tried several times, but the 2nd goal simply did not come. Slovenia though were quite happy to sit back hoping that USA would draw against Algeria and they would make it through. Little did they know that USA managed to score in stoppage time. They continued to defend, and England held on for a hard fought one nil win, and made their way in to the final 16 of the World Cup.