As of February 2010, North American fans had bought more tickets for the 2010 Fifa World Cup than supporters from any other country excepting hosts South Africa. English fans are third on the list of ticket sales. Full houses assured for this group!
England have high hopes of winning the World Cup for the second time. They have shown excellent form under coach Fabio Capello, who replaced Steve Mclaren in 2007. With the Italian at the helm, England has won more than 71 percent of its matches.
They dominated their World Cup qualifying group, winning nine out of 10 matches, and losing only once. They qualified with a record that included 34 goals for and just six against.
Their overall record in 2009 was: 11 matches played, seven wins, three losses, and a draw.
The world’s most recognisable footballer David Beckham, who will be 35 before the kick off of the World Cup, is hoping to sign off his international career in style in South Africa. He may no longer be among the world’s best players, but he remains a good player, and he would undoubtedly be one of the biggest names in the tournament if selected.
Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are two of the best attacking midfielders in the game today. However, they have not always been used effectively or combined well for England. Much will depend on how they play together in South Africa.
England will be supported by one of the largest groups of travelling fans in South Africa. Their expectations are the highest they have been in a long time. Again, this is due to the country’s impressive qualifying campaign and the high standard of the Premier League.
The USA has faced England in the World Cup before. That meeting occurred in 1950 when England contested the event for the first time. There was an astounding result as the lightly-regarded Americans beat England 1-0. So unexpected was the result that some newspapers on receiving the 1-0 score felt there must have been a mistake and reported that England had won 10-1!
More recently, during the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup, the Americans proved that they have the ability to upset the best. In the semi-finals, up against world number one Spain, the winners of 15 straight matches and unbeaten in 35, the USA won 2-0 to reach the final. There they pushed Brazil all the way before succumbing 3-2.
The Americans’ biggest problem is consistency. Since the Confederations Cup, their record has been somewhat mixed. While there have been wins over fellow qualifiers Honduras and Mexico, the USA also suffered a stunning 5-0 loss to the Mexicans, drew with Haiti, and lost to European qualifiers Denmark and Slovakia.
During 2009, they played 24 matches. They won 13 of them, lost eight, and drew three.
Their industry cannot be faulted and they pose a physical challenge to any opponent they play, but it is hard to guess what the USA will dish up on any given day. That makes them dangerous, but equally, it makes them a potential flop.
Algeria were responsible for Egypt, the winner of the last three African Cup of Nations titles, missing out on a place in South Africa. After both countries finished with identical qualifying records, the Algerians won a two-leg playoff to secure their spot.
The North Africans enjoyed an excellent 2009. They began the year ranked 64th by Fifa and dropped as low as 72nd in April and May, but by the end of the year they had risen 46 places.
Their record included seven wins, including a victory over fellow qualifiers Uruguay, one draw and only one defeat.
While Algeria has previously played in only two World Cup finals and exited in the first round on both occasions, they have made their mark in the world’s biggest football event.
In 1982, playing in the World Cup for the first time, they shocked the powerful West Germany, who went on to reach the final, 2-1 in their first outing. They also beat Chile 3-2, but a 2-0 loss to Austria saw the North Africans exit on goal difference. Nonetheless, their success against West Germany reverberated around the football world.
Slovenia, in its short history, has qualified for the World Cup once previously, in 1998. South African fans might remember that Bafana Bafana’s one win in South Korea came over the Slovenians, who exited after losing all three of their Group B games.
After finishing just behind neighbours Slovakia in qualifying, Slovenia faced Russia in a home-and-away playoff for a place in South Africa.
Russia took a two-goal lead in Moscow, but a late goal by Nejc Pecnik gave the Slovenians hope for the return leg. A 44th minute goal by Zlatko Dedic in the return match in Maribor won the match 1-0 for Slovenia and also ensured their place at the World Cup on the away goals rule.
Victory over the Guus Hiddink-coached Russians shows that Slovenia, eight years after their first World Cup appearance, are likely to be a tougher opponent than in South Korea in 2002.
Slovenia’s strength is the team’s defence – they conceded only four goals in 10 qualifying matches – and it is that strength especially that will make them difficult opponents.
During 2009, Slovenia had a mixed bag of results. They won five matches, lost four and drew one.
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