England got the draw of dreams on Friday facing off with three weaker sides, and avoiding any Sub-Saharan Africa or South American competition at least at the Group Stage. The Three Lions who under the seeding criteria were close to being knocked off in favor of France, now is an overwhelming favorite to win the group.
Fabio Capello’s men open with a somewhat talented United States team that is often undisciplined and disorganized on the big occasions, before facing Algeria, one of the weakest teams in the entire tournament. The United States lacks the organization on the pitch and the composure to break down England in a World Cup match.
The one caveat to the above statement is if Jermaine Jones from Schalke who recently was approved for a switch from Germany to the US features in the American midfield. Jones has a skill set the other American players lack: a good ball winner with excellent technical skill and the ability to play dangerous balls forward from a withdrawn role.
England faces a potentially dangerous hurdle in the final group match against Slovenia. England and Slovenia played a friendly of note recently at Wembley. It was a close encounter with Slovenia playing well in large spells but ultimately coming up short largely because of a Wayne Rooney dive that drew a penalty kick. A Slovene side that defeated Russia over two legs will not be an easy out in any major tournament as some may think.
Slovenia also defeated automatic qualifier Slovakia in the next to last UEFA matchday. The game played in Bratislava was a one sided affair that showed Slovenia can play away from home in a hostile atmosphere and excel.
Rene Krhin is a young flair player to keep an eye on for Slovenia. Milivoje Novakovic is an effective striker for Koln in the Bundesliga and has also done a masterful job for Slovenia. Another player, I am familiar with is Real Betis man, Branco Illic who has been playing in Russia this year. He’s a superior man marker that can slide inside and serve as a physical presence in central defense.
In the two leg playoff versus Russia, the Slovenes kept their shape well and countered particularly down the right side. Yuri Zhirkov of Chelsea had a nightmare tie, perhaps because he isn’t in the Carlo Ancelotti’s setup currently.
Slovenia is dangerous, but if England takes care of buisiness in the first two matches, as I expect, then a draw will be all the Three Lions need to win the group.