On Tuesday, 4 teams secured their place in the round of 16; Uruguay, Mexico, Korea, and Argentina will all move on. Wednesday 4 more teams will join them, at the start of the tournament most people would have said Group C would be England and the US, but both of those teams are fighting for their life behind Slovenia. Group D favorites were Germany and Serbia, both will need wins to advance as Ghana leads the group with 4 points while both Germany and Serbia each have 3.
Slovenia vs. England - 8:00am MT - ESPN 2
Any result and tiny Slovenia will advance, while only a win would ensure England a spot in the 16 without help. One has to believe the two draws in their first two matches have to be considered disappointing for the English side, a side ranked 8th in the world prior to the tournament, Slovenia was #25.
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Where We Stand: Groups C and D- a preview of the matches from 7500 to Holte
"The players need to help each other out, and be self-confident, brave and determined. If they do that, then I'm sure we'll see another big, big show - a show that will make Slovenia and its players into household names around the world," Matjaz Kek, Slovenia coach
"I don't understand why during a game we don't change the rhythm or the speed. We are really slow. At this World Cup if you don't run or press or fight it is difficult to go forward," Fabio Capello, England coach
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 on Wednesday 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.
Slovenia is good, they proved it against Algeria and in the first half of the US match, but they aren't that good as they proved in the second half against the US. You have to believe their style will pose issues for the English, they are fast and aggressive, while England has looked slow and struggled to score with just a single goal in two matches. My heart says England will pull it together, but I thought the same thing about France, so I am going with a 1-1 draw in this match as Slovenia prove they have what it takes.
More after the jump:
Perhaps no groups is more interesting heading into their final matches than Group D, no team looked stronger in their first match than Germany 4-0 over the Aussies, then in their second match they go down a man and then down a goal to Serbia in a controversial match. Ghana got a 1-0 win over Serbia in their first match but only a 1-1 draw against the Aussies, while Serbia lost that first match but got the big win over Germany. Australia can be the spoil sport for Serbia, but would need a real miracle to advance. Germany the task is simple win and they will be in, Serbia is in the same boat, while Ghana can get in on a draw if Serbia loses or draws with Australia.
Germany vs. Ghana - 12:30pm MT - ESPN
As one of my picks to make the Final 4 of the World Cup, Germany will need to control their destiny and get the win, can they do it without Klose? Ghana had a man advantage and still couldn't put away the Aussies, now they can secure a birth in the round of 16 with a result, perhaps they will be the only African nation to make it that far.
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"There's no reason to change anything. We have to keep playing the same way. We played badly in 2008, but we've been good in both our games here at the World Cup. The pressure's on now, but there's always pressure in any case. We're well able to cope, and that includes the younger players. I'm not in the slightest bit worried that we might not win the game. We'll neutralise Ghana," Philipp Lahm, Germany captain
"I've spent all of my career in Germany. This is a very big match, and it's even more significant because of the permutations in the group. They're a strong and experienced team, but they have weaknesses in defence. We'll definitely create a chance or two," Hans Sarpei, Ghana defender
Ghana already has one milestone behind it and now it stands a victory away from achieving maybe an even bigger one - sending Germany to its earliest exit from a World Cup.
Ghana became the first African team to win a World Cup game on African soil when it beat Serbia 1-0 in its Group D opener. Now it can ensure that Germany exits at the group stage for the first time ever.
Going into the decisive final round, Ghana leads the group on four points, Germany and Serbia have three and Australia is on one, meaning all four have a chance of progressing and all are at risk of missing out.
If Ghana had been able to do better against a 10 man Australia, I would be really worried for Germany. Of course had Germany been able to get a result against Serbia with just 10 men, I would be really worried for Ghana. Instead I expect a dogfight between the two sides, with Germany coming out on top 2-1.
Australia vs. Serbia - 12:30 MT - ESPN 2
Well if the previous two matches hold true to form, the Aussies will have to win with 10 men, but they should be able to count on a PK to help their efforts. One might have expected Australia to pack it in like France after their 4-0 drubbing in the first match against Germany, now they are still alive despite having just a single point. The Serbs have to be wondering what might have been if they could have gotten a point in their first match, now they need a result to have a chance to move on.
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"We're still on course for qualification. We'll go into the next match with a huge amount of confidence and the certainty that we have the means to win it. This is the World Cup, a huge competition that we couldn't wait to contest, so our catastrophic start was very disappointing," Brett Emerton, Australia midfielder.
"We're keeping our feet on the ground and we now have to concentrate on Australia and not underestimate them. They've got a lot of character. We need to play the way we did against Germany," Radosav Petrovic, Serbia midfielder.
Australia needs to win and also rely on a favorable result in the simultaneous Ghana-Germany game to reach the round of 16. If Australia and Ghana both win, Australia is through. If Germany wins, Australia must beat Serbia and hope its goal difference is boosted and Ghana's reduced by a sum of five goals. A Germany-Ghana draw would leave Australia having to win by seven goals.
Neither side has impressed me, neither side has played well, and to be honest neither side probably deserve to go through, but Serbia will find a way to get a 1-0 win and secure their spot in the final 16.
United States vs. Algeria - 8:00am MT - ESPN
Yeah I saved this for last, heck I almost saved it for a separate post, but that wouldn't be right. There may end up being a second post about this match. It is simple for the US, win and your in the round of 16, anything else and you could be on your way home in a hurry. For Algeria, their chances are slim, but like most nations beating the US would be reward itself. One has to home the Frank De Bleeckere will be a better official than the US saw in their last match.
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"The Algerians have put a good team together. Their displays at the African Nations Cup were consistently strong. They haven't come up with the same kind of results here, but they still have a chance to progress. The fact that they qualified from the African Zone at the expense of sides like Egypt shows that they are not to be taken lightly. We've watched videos of their games and we know a lot more about their players now. They're very fit and possess great tactical awareness. That's why we're expecting a difficult match," Michael Bradley, USA midfielder.
"It's going to be a tricky match, in my opinion. The Americans were one of the teams fancied to qualify from this group. We simply don't have a choice; a win is imperative. I can see it being a very tough game for both sides," Rabah Saadane, Algeria coach.
The United States will advance to the round of 16 if it beats Algeria. A draw would suffice if England loses to Slovenia. If the United States and England both draw, the Americans would advance provided they end up with more goals scored than the English - currently the U.S. has three goals, while England has one.
A draw will not be enough if England wins, and a defeat would definitely send the Americans home early.
When the Americans play Algeria at the World Cup on Wednesday they'll either live up to all the hype and earn a spot among the final 16 teams - or fall painfully short of their long-stated goal and lose a watershed opportunity.
Four years ago, the US knew they had a chance to book a spot in the knockout rounds of the 2006 World Cup with a win in their final group-stage game against Ghana. They failed miserably, losing 2-1 to the upstart Black Stars.
On Wednesday, the challenge is eerily similar. All the US need to do to reach the Round of 16 this time around is beat another upstart African team: Algeria. Clearly it's not that simple. The Algerians are here for a reason. But the US aren't the same team that wilted in Germany, says Landon Donovan.
"In the two World Cups I've been a part of, we hadn't strung together three consecutive good results and good performances, and I think this team has the experience and the ability to do that," the American star said on Monday. "We'll find out on Wednesday night."
My heart says USA! USA1, my head says USA! USA!, listen this match will not be a landslide for the US, but if the real on field leader Landon Donovan does what he is capable of doing (stepping up and creating chances for himself and others), then the US will be in good shape. Can the US prevent giving up an early goal? Well consider that Algeria has yet to score and it would seem likely that they can, but can the US break down the Algerian defense that held England to a 0-0 draw? If the US can play like they did the last 30 minutes of the match against Slovenia, and if they can get a fair match, then yes they can. USA 2 - Algeria 0.
OFF MY SOAPBOX