England on the brink

2010-06-22 07:53

England’s World Cup woes usually revolve around the pressure of

knowing it hasn’t won the global title since 1966.

With England to play Slovenia in a Group C match tomorrow at Nelson

Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, a more telling fact is that it’s been 50

years – 1958 in Sweden – that the English have failed to advance past the first

round once they’ve made it to the finals.

Yet that scenario is facing coach Fabio Capello and his apparently

discordant English players – a loss to Slovenia would end any chance of England

making it to the round of 16. England has two points after a 1-1 draw with the

United States and a scoreless stalemate with Algeria.

England didn’t qualify for the World Cup in 1974, 1978 and 1994,

but when it has made it, the team usually performs relatively well: losing in

the semifinals in 1990, the quarterfinals in 1962, 1986, 2002 and 2006 and the

second round in 1982 and 1998.

Its chances tomorrow won’t be helped by rumours of a rift between

the players and Capello.

But yesterday at England’s training base in Rustenburg, midfielder

Frank Lampard denied there were any problems with the coach. He said John

Terry’s emotional talk of a team meeting with Capello after England’s poor

performance in the 0-0 draw with Algeria was in keeping with ex-captain’s


Lampard said: “I understand what John is saying because he’s

passionate. He’s like that as a player. All 23 players deal with things

differently. Some people don’t want to say too much, some people want to hit

things head on. Everyone appreciates that.

“The messages I got yesterday from people was that John was saying

some positive things. We will try and hit things head on on the training


After the match against Algeria, England players were booed by

their own fans.

Slovenia captain Robert Koren, meanwhile, says England’s lacklustre

performances against the United States and Algeria have made his side more

confident of victory.

Koren said his team mates were surprised by the low standard of

England’s performances so far: “We know that England is a very good team. They

have brilliant players. But we will not be thinking much about England, we will

concentrate on our team.

“I watched their games against the US and Algeria and I saw good

things and bad things. They didn’t show the type of football we expect of them.

It gives us some hope. But we will see on Wednesday.”

Slovenia had a winning start after a mistake by Algeria goalkeeper

Faouzi Chaouchi handed the team a 1-0 victory, the country’s first ever at a

World Cup.

The small nation looked as good as in the round of 16 when it led

the US 2-0 in its second game, but the Americans fought back for a 2-2


Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said: “Our whole nation is together

following our success, it’s a big thing back home. They are very proud of us and

we want to continue making them proud.”

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