Most fans think the U.S. team should finish second and make it out of the group simply because two of the teams, Slovenia and Algeria, don't have the cachet that England carries. Actually, it won't be easy. Here's why:
World rank: 8
How they got here: Won nine of their 10 group games and scored 34 goals
World Cup best finish: champion, 1966
Standout players: The team is composed of the "Golden Generation," a group of the best players England has ever produced. Unfortunately for the "Three Lions," the group's reputation is more impressive than their results. Famously, they failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championships.
Forward Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) is the centerpiece. He's extremely aggressive and capable of creating scoring opportunities from any situation. Midfielders Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) and Frank Lampard (Chelsea) are a handful. Lampard is a garbage man, swooping in to score goals off rebounds or misplays by the defense. Gerrard has a cannon for a right leg, scoring goals from long range. Ledley King (Tottenham) and John Terry (Chelsea) form a towering tandem in central defense. They are very good in the air, but can have trouble with small, quick forwards. Glen Johnson (Liverpool) and Ashely Cole (Chelsea) are offensive-minded right and left backs, though they can be caught up field. Landon Donovan tied Cole in knots when Chelsea played Everton during the Premier League season. They are very dangerous on the wings.
The team is fast on the wings, featuring a combination of players such as Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City) , Joe Cole (Chelsea) and Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur).
The team can play any number of different formations.
When they play the U.S. team: June 12 in Rustenburg
History: England is 7-2 against the United States, outscoring them 35-8
How the U.S. team matches up: This won't be an easy game for the Yanks. England is capable of scoring up the middle, from the wings, on counter-attacks or on set pieces, and physically they are one of the few teams that can match the United States' size and speed. But, they are as mentally fragile as the United States can sometimes be. If the United States can snatch an early goal on a counter-attack or set piece, the Three Lions could press, which will create more chances for the United States. Taking a point would be a good result for the United States.
World rank: 25
How they got here: They went 6-2-2 in the group stage, allowing four goals. They defeated Russia in a playoff to make the tournament.
World Cup best finish: Group stage, 2002
Standout players: Just because the team doesn't feature a Wayne Rooney doesn't mean it's not talented. Milivoje Novakovic (Cologne) will be the goal-scorer and is going to be handful for all teams in the group. He's tall (6-4), which will cancel out some of the advantage that England and the U.S. team possess with their tall defenders. He scored five goals during qualifying. Attacking midfielder Robert Koren (West Bromwich Albion) will link up with Novakovic. The defense features no player that is on a big club. However, the goalkeeper, Samir Handanovic (Udinese), will keep Slovenia in games. The team likely will play a 4-4-2.
When they play the U.S. team: June 18 in Johannesburg
History: They've never faced the United States.
How the U.S. team matches up: This will be an interesting game because the teams are very similar in style. Neither dominates possession, both rely on defense, set plays and counter-attacks. Tactics will be dictated by what happened in both teams' first games. If the U.S. team earns at least a point against England, it may not be as aggressive against Slovenia because it figures to defeat Algeria and qualify second with five points. If the U.S. team loses to England, it likely will try to open things up and get the three points.
World rank: 30
How they got here: They went 5-1-1 in their group, defeating Egypt in a playoff on neutral ground. They scored 10 goals and allowed four.
World Cup best finish: Group stage, 1982 and 1986
Standout players: Though devoid of household names, the "Desert Foxes" do have talent. Madjid Bougherra (Rangers) is the enforcer in the back. Nadir Belhadj (Portsmouth) is an offensive-minded left back. The midfield features two players who compete in the tough Bundesliga: Karim Ziani (Wolfsburg) and Karim Matmour (Borussia Monchengladbach). Rafik Saifi (Istres) is the goal-scorer.
When they play the U.S. team: June 23 in Tshwane/Pretoria
History: They've never faced the United States.
How the U.S. team matches up: This is the game to pencil in as a ‘W' for the Americans. Algeria has been badly outplayed in games after it qualified, losing to Egypt 4-0 in the semifinals of the African Cup of Nations and to Nigeria 1-0 in the third-place game. It was drubbed by Ireland 3-0 last week.
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