All eyes will be on Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, when the United States face off against England. The USA are trying to surprise, while England will try to avoid another embarrassing outing in international competition.
England would be the clear-cut favorite in this group, if it weren’t for their past mishaps on soccer’s biggest stage. They failed to qualify for Euro 2008, which came as a shock to the soccer world. They lost in the quarterfinals in both 2006 and 2002 and didn’t make it out of the Round of 16 in 1998. They didn’t even qualify for the World Cup in the US in 1994.
England claims to be the birthplace of soccer, but they haven’t done well on the world’s biggest stages. They have won the World Cup only once, and that victory came 44 years ago. The English faithful refer to the dry-spell in titles as the “44 years of hurt”.
The Three Lions seem to have turned their fate around after hiring Italian Fabio Capello as their manager. The decision came after they flunked out in the Euro qualifying stage. Capello has led the team to a 9-0-1 record in a World Cup qualifying group that included Ukraine and Croatia. The team outscored opponents 34-6.
England’s Wayne Rooney is one of the most dangerous strikers in the game and the team is made up of many notable players, including Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and John Terry. Capello’s XI need to prove that they can keep their nerves in check and translate their strong play to a deep World Cup run.
The US soccer team could surprise many with a strong performance against the Three Lions. The Yanks come off a strong performance in the qualifying stage, winning their group with a 6-2-2 record. They finished ahead of rival Mexico, beating them in 2-0 in Columbus and losing a close game in front of 104,499 fans at Estadio Azteca.
The injury to Charlie Davies was a big blow to a hopeful US squad, but Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore and Carlos Bocangera have the US are eager to succeed on the biggest stage. Add to that a solid goalkeeper in Tim Howard as well as talented midfielders DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey, and the team might surprise in South Africa.
Slovenia finished with a 6-2-2 record in qualifying, but they did so in a weak group. They did beat Slovakia, the eventual group winner, twice, but dropped matches to Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic.
Manager Matjaz Kek’s squad failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and have only qualified for the World Cup once before. They finished at the bottom of Group B in the 2002 World Cup, scoring only two goals in losses to Spain, Paraguay and South Africa.
Algeria is the weakest team in Group C. They could get a little boost from playing on their home-continent, but don’t expect them to do anything special at the World Cup. The Desert Foxes upset Egypt to qualify for the cup, but have yet to beat any of the big-name teams out of Europe or South America.
No surprise here in the odds, as Pinnacle has England winning the group at -324. The USA could surprise England early and their +472 line to win the group is worth a look. The Yanks could catch England off-guard in the teams’ opening match and should be able to beat Algeria and Slovenia handily.
A real long shot is tough to find in this group, since England and the US should advance from the group easily, barring any major slip-ups. Your best value might lay in the US beating England and coming up on top of the group.