Group C contains England, USA, Algeria and Slovenia. The English are very happy with the draw as they should easily win this group. The other three teams will fight it out for 2nd place, and I expect the U.S. to move onto the knockout stages.
A look at the teams in Group C
Manager: Fabio Capello
Key player: Wayne Rooney
Best: Winners (1966)
World ranking: 9
Rarely has a qualifying campaign gone so smoothly for England, who have found a new lease of life under the authoritative leadership of Italian coach Fabio Capello. They swept into the finals with a 5-1 rout of Croatia, their eighth victory in eight Group Six matches, ensuring their progress to the finals with two matches to spare and providing a fitting revenge for the 3-2 defeat to the same side that denied them participation at Euro 2008.
Disappointing quarter-final eliminations at both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup and the failure to reach Euro 2008 were huge under-achievements for a group of players widely considered something of an English “golden generation”. However, many of them, including David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and captain John Terry remain and appear to have found a coach capable of successfully utilising their combined talents. They lack proven quality beyond the first choice side and there are concerns in goal but if they play to potential and Wayne Rooney shines the inevitable hype may finally be justified.
Manager: Bob Bradley
Key player: Landon Donovan
Best: Third (1930)
World ranking: 14
The United States had to work hard to seal qualification with a 3-2 win over Honduras, but Bob Bradley’s side did enjoy the luxury of having a game to spare. The Americans gave a strong showing throughout qualifying, securing good wins over their principle rivals Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica to take top spot in the group.
The US have featured in each of the previous five World Cups and are now expected to make the knockout rounds. In making the Confederations Cup final, beating Euro 2008 winners Spain along the way and pushing eventual winners Brazil in the final, the Americans demonstrated enough to suggest a latter-stages push is within their reach in South Africa. Bradley’s team is well-organised with a good keeper in Everton’s Tim Howard, and goalscoring threats in the shape of Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey and Los Angeles Galaxy striker Landon Donovan. However, the coach used 43 players in qualification, suggesting consistency may be alluding them at present.
Manager: Rabah Saadane
Key player: Karim Ziani
Best: Round one (1986, 1982)
World ranking: 28
Algeria, the Desert Foxes, are appearing at their first World Cup for 24 years since exiting in the first round of Mexico 86. They made it to South Africa the hard way, forced to go to a one-match play-off against Egypt when they lost 2-0 in Cairo in the final group game as the two sides finished neck-and-neck at the top of Group C. They came through the contest at a neutral venue in the Sudanese capital Khartoum thanks to defender Antar Yahia’s magnificent first-half volley that crashed in off the crossbar.
The Fennecs could well be one to avoid in the group stages, having shown enough technical ability and passion in qualifying to suggest the current highest Fifa ranking of 28 is justified. Stylistically they have been likened to a European side and possess a large number of players who ply their trade within the continent, including Portsmouth’s Nadir Belhadj and Lazio midfielder Mourad Meghni. In what is often a rarity for an African side they are blessed with a highly talented goalkeeper in the shape of Faouzi Chaouchi.
Manager: Matjaz Kek
Key player: Milivoje Novakovic
Best: Round one (2002)
World ranking: 33
Matjaz Kek’s side reached their second World Cup finals thanks to a surprise play-off win over much-fancied Russia, having finished second in Group Three behind Slovakia. A late reply left them trailing 2-1 after the first leg in Moscow but Zlatko Dedic’s goal in Maribor proved enough to earn them victory on the away goals rule. It would be easy to dismiss the threat of Slovenia but any side that denies Guus Hiddink’s Russia a World Cup spot deserve to be taken seriously.
Slovenia have made something of a habit of upsetting the odds, beating Ukraine to surprisingly qualify for Euro 2000 before drawing with both Yugoslavia and Norway in the tournament finals. They also beat Romania in a play-off to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. They are well-organised and tough to break down but lack the class to truly hurt sides.