England, US backs are against the wall
Posted: 23 June 2010 Time: 08:26
Group C was supposed to be a romp through to the Round of 16 at the World Cup for the English and Americans.
That romp has turned into an obstacle course, and both teams have stumbled. Although each can advance to the second round today with wins, such victories hardly are givens considering how the two countries have played.
The US team fell behind to both England and Slovenia before rallying for two draws. England also has two draws, the second with Algeria causing all kinds of angst back home.
Not since 1958 in Sweden has England failed to advance past the group stage once it qualified for the tournament. The Americans have not been so successful, but their hopes were high when they came to South Africa after finishing second to Brazil at the Fifa Confederations Cup a year ago.
A loss to Algeria today will eliminate the Americans far earlier than most expected, and even a draw wouldn't be enough if England defeats Slovenia in Port Elizabeth).
US star midfielder Landon Donovan doesn't think it will happen.
"In the two World Cups I've been a part of, we didn't string together three consecutive good results and good performances," he said. "I think this team has the experience and the ability to do that, and we'll find out on Wednesday."
For England, the criticism back home could turn to a volcano of venom should it be eliminated in the opening round. Its players are very aware that the pressure has been ramped up to unimaginable levels, with reports of a discord on the team.
"A rift honestly isn't there," Frank Lampard said. "When things get difficult in football - results and performances - people will try to say there are factions (within the squad) and we have to make sure we stay very united.
"We're not happy with how we're playing as a group. Nobody is."
If the Desert Foxes win and England loses, the Algerians move on today.
"If Algeria plays to its potential we don't need to worry about our opponents," striker Karim Matmour says. "If we play our style of football we can beat anyone."
Had the Slovenes held on to their lead against the Americans last week, they would already be in the Last 16.
Now, a draw against England will see the smallest nation in the field (about 2 million inhabitants) move on.
"I watched England's games against the US and Algeria and I saw good things and bad things," says Slovene striker Robert Koren. "They didn't show the type of football we expect of them. It gives us some hope."