Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup 2010: USA and England Through to Last-16, Relief Beyond Belief

England and the USA have progressed to the Last-16 of the 2010 World Cup after a Landon Donovan goal, in the 91st minute against Algeria, won the Group for the U.S.
Meanwhile Jermain Defoe's early strike proved enough to gain second place for a nervous Three Lions as they edged past Slovenia 1-0.

The story of the night was Landon Donovan's heroic injury time winner, that put the U.S. through when all looked lost in the Loftus Versfield Stadium.
With England hanging on to a 1-0 lead, and both games moving into the phases, Team USA were in third position behind Fabio Capello's misfiring team, who were Group leaders for most of the afternoon, and Slovenia who were second on four points.
However, cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Jozy Altidore forced his way into a shooting position and fired home, but Mbouli proved equal to the effort, as he had been to all of Team USA's best chances.
The ball squirmed free to Donovan who made no mistake from just six yards to cue wild celebrations, as the entire of Team USA's squad made their way to the LA Galaxy man who had dived into the corner flag.
One of the World Cups greatest goal celebrations of all time.
The goal meant that the U.S. progressed to the Last-16 as deserved Group C winners, and if it were not for a virtuoso display from Mbouli, then the States would have run out much more comfortable winners.
Team USA's display was in direct contrast to England's laboured win over Slovenia in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Under increasing pressure from the watching public, media, and his team, Fabio Capello made a number of changes to his team in an effort at spicing things up a little.
Initially the changes worked as England forced the play, closing down Slovenia high up the pitch, and forcing plenty of mistakes.
Slovenia seemed to have ridden that early storm, and just as they looked like they were coming into the game, Jermaine Defoe scored from James Milner's whipped cross from the right.
England then looked as if they were going to run riot, but somehow Slovenia held on until halftime at just 1-0 down.
However, the expected onslaught in the second half never came, as England looked increasingly nervous, and were it not for some heroic defending from John Terry, they may have found themselves level, and out of the competition.
As both games entered injury time, England were trying to hold the ball in the corner flag to waste time, while Team USA were still looking for that elusive goal.
In the end, both sides went through.
Slovenia, little more than a Championship level team, were held at arms length for much of the match against England, even though they did open their illustrious opponents up on more than one occasion.
Team USA deservedly beat Algeria, and on another night, the scoreline would have been far more flattering.
The results provided relief beyond belief for both sides, as Fabio Capello claimed that England played with a free mind, and Gabby Yorath stating that England played with the shackles off.
This couldn't be further from the truth, as a nervous looking England appeared as if the pressure was getting to them, with many players fading as the game wore on.
One thing is true though, the pressure of the group stages is gone now, and in a straight head to head, England can be a match for any team.
England and the U.S. will find out who they face in the Last-16 tonight, as any of the four teams from Group D can still advance. Germany (three points) remain favourites to win the group, but face a stiff task to beat Ghana, who currently lead Group D with four points.
They are closely followed by Serbia (three points), who take on Australia (one point), which means that given the correct set of results, any team from the group can advance.
Both England and Team USA will be delighted to have reached their first targets of advancing from the group, but if England's fans thought the group stages were tough on the nerves, wait until the knock out stages.