Group C

England face tricky task in negotiating past United States, Algeria and Slovenia.

    Glasgow Rangers' Madjid Bougherra will be a key player for Algeria [GALLO/GETTY]

    The English Premier League has turned the national team into one of the most-followed sides by neutrals around the world – meaning it will not just be expectant fans and media in the United Kingdom watching their progress.

    Perennial underachievers, England face a group that coach Fabio Capello expressed himself satisfied with, but which will nevertheless prove difficult to navigate.

    The United States have a good World Cup record, Algeria have North African bragging rights to assert, while innocent-sounding Slovenia could be the surprise package. 

    England

    The Three Lions go into nearly every tournament tipped as one of the favourites, only to disappoint in the final stages.

    But with Italian master Fabio Capello at the helm, England's mix of flair and pragmatism has boosted hopes as they chase a World Cup win that would banish constant references to their only previous success in 1966.

    Striker Wayne Rooney can claim to be one of the best players in the world, while a midfield featuring Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard has promised much but failed to ultimately deliver.

    United States

    As a former British colony – and now dominant political partner – the States are a team alongside Australia that the English hate to lose to at their national sport. England v USA on June 12 could be the setting for an upset.

    Ranked 14th, Bob Bradley heads a side that has become used to dominating the Concacaf qualifying zone and which contains players from top sides around the world – including Europa League finalist Clint Dempsey and Villarreal youngster Jozy Altidore.

    Group C fixtures

    Saturday June 12

     England v USA

    Sunday June 13

     
    Algeria v Slovenia

    Friday June 18

     
    Slovenia v USA
     England v Algeria 

    Wednesday June 23

     
    Slovenia v England 
     USA v Algeria

    South Africa 2010 is the States' sixth-straight finals appearance, with their best showing in that run coming when they exited the quarter-finals in 2002.

    Algeria

    No team qualified for South Africa 2010 with as much drama as Les Fennecs, whose bus was attacked on arrival for a qualifier in Cairo and who beat North African heavyweights Egypt in a subsequent playoff in Khartoum, sparking a diplomatic standoff between the two countries.

    Egypt got their revenge at the Africa Cup of Nations but it is Algeria, with their smattering of Europe-based stars like Karim Ziani and Madjid Bougherra, who fly south this summer.  

    Coach Rabah Saadane led the team at their second World Cup appearance in 1986 and has positioned his players firmly in the underdog category – which may well suit their proud and combative style.

    Slovenia

    Formerly members of the Yugoslav team, Slovenia – population: 2 million – qualified for the first time since their debut in 2002 courtesy of an away-goals playoff win over Russia (pop: 142 million).

    Having also knocked out East European big guns Poland and the Czech Republic on their way to South Africa, 25th-ranked Slovenia have every chance of making the knockout rounds.

    Slovenia's teamsheet reads like a who's-not of European football, but coach Matjaz Kek has built his side around a formidable defence, with goals coming from Cologne striker Milivoje Novakovic.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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