England could not have wished for a kinder draw in Cape Town on December 4th
and it’s hard to imagine them not reaching the quarterfinals with ease, even
allowing for a possible last 16 clash with Germany.
Having been labelled as the ‘Golden Generation’ for what seems like an eternity
this current pride of Three Lions gets one more opportunity to prove they have
what it takes to beat the best and this may just be England’s time.
As for nearly every nation, Spain probably being the exception, arriving with
key men injury-free will be crucial if England are to be successful and in
particular the Liverpudlian duo of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. England
surely could not cope without the goal scoring prowess of the Manchester United
striker, given their other attacking deficiencies, while Liverpool captain
Gerrard has thrived under coach Fabio Capello.
The well documented area of concern for England is in goal but think back to
recent World Cup winning sides such as the Brazil team of 2002 for example and
you’d be hard pressed to find many who could name the triumphant ‘keeper as
Marcos Roberto Silveira Reis.
A world class man between the sticks is an advantage, of course, but Capello has
a number of sound options, David James looking most likely, and whoever pulls on
the number one jersey will not determine whether or not England lift the famous
trophy. Unless penalty shootouts feature along the way.
For me, the pressing concern is England’s lack of options alongside Rooney up
front but if Emile Heskey can continue to bring out the best of those around him
then the Aston Villa forward should get the nod. It is, after all, a team game
and the argument that a non-scoring forward should be made redundant is a false
England have any number of other creative players that can find net, the likes
of Gerrard, Frank Lampard and a fit again Joe Cole all carry a goal threat, and
confidence has never been higher. The final, at least, beckons with England just
a best price of 1/12 with Paddy Power to make the last 16.
UPDATE: England won't have the talisman that is David Beckham on the field in SA, but the 30 man squad that was chosen has received high marks from the football pundits.
Over the past 12 months I have been extremely keen on the chances of USA in
South Africa but while the draw is favourable, they are better equipped than
both Slovenia and Algeria to progress, I’m not sure they’ll cope all that well
with rising expectation levels.
Bob Bradley has continued the excellent work done before him by Bruce Arena in
developing USA into a team to be feared on the international stage, as we saw at
the 2009 Confederations Cup, and they topped their qualifying group with
something spare – tasting defeat only against Mexico and Costa Rica on their
However, I can see Slovenia causing USA problems and with England first up the
pressure will be on Landon Donovan and his side for the remaining two group
matches should they suffer what looks likes being an opening defeat.
Donovan has been the star of the show for some time now for the national side
and the LA Galaxy man sets an excellent example. 42 goals in a staggering 120
matches speak volumes and he could be joined in attack by the promising
20-year-old Jozy Altidore of Hull City.
Altidore, who has found the net eight times for his country already, is one of
several Premier League based players that will represent USA at next summer’s
finals, including the highly dependable Tim Howard in goal, and while they will
relish the chance to take on England their other two clashes are steps into the
The 1930 third place side are just 4/7 with Paddy Power to make the knockout
stages but, with England all but guaranteed one of the spots, that price looks
Having been established as an independent national side in just 1992 this is,
remarkably, Slovenia’s second appearance already at the World Cup finals in
their short history after their showing in Japan-Korea and it is another
Coach Matjaz Kek masterminded the playoff victory over Slovenia’s more
illustrious neighbours Russia to reach South Africa but credit must also go to
his players as well and there is no doubt they are a talented bunch.
Slovenia found only Slovakia too good in a tough qualifying group before getting
the better of Guus Hiddink’s men over two legs and once again they will look to
striker Milivoje Novakovic for goals. The Cologne striker bagged five in
qualifying and the majority of their squad are now based in the top leagues
With emerging talent such as Inter Milan teenage midfielder Rene Krhin to call
upon Kek and his players should be targeting the knockout stages and, once
there, anything is possible.
This looks, on paper, a straight fight between Slovenia and USA for second place
behind England and with Capello’s men looking all but guaranteed top spot the
play could well be the straight forecast at the prices.
The outright betting indicates that should be USA but upon closer inspection I’m
not so sure and the value lies in the Europeans to dominate. It’s 7/2 with
SkyBet that Slovenia follow England into round two and that will do for me.
Little doubt that Algeria, despite their gutsy playoff win over fierce rivals
Egypt, were the side everybody wanted from Pot 3 and they look to have their
work cut out.
It could have been a lot worse for the North African side but their qualifying
record suggests they will make little impact, despite, no doubt, the best
efforts of Wolfsburg playmaker Karim Ziani, and any points picked up will be
seen as a bonus.
Coach Rabah Saadane has already overachieved by guiding Algeria to South Africa
and, while the likes of Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra will provide plenty of
experience, quality seems to be lacking.
Algeria are 25/1 to win Group C with Paddy Power, 4/1 with Betfred to qualify,
and that seems to sum up their chances.