Some random observations after the third group fixtures:
Slovenia 0-1 England: The early going in this game was sluggish with neither team able to string together a series of passes to find openings for a shot. Wayne Rooney selfishly took a bad shot in the box when he had an unmarked teammate outside with a better view and angle. Midway through the first half, James Milner delivered an expert cross to the box where Jermain Defoe beat a defender to it and blasted it through the goalie. Milner and Defoe nearly hooked up again a few minutes later. The goal created some confidence in the English attack, and England increased its pace and tempo. Slovenia saw very few opportunities in the first half. The Three Lions kept up the pressure in the second half, but it was Milner on the right flank, not Gerrard on the left that did the creating. Defoe had a goal called off because he and Rooney were offside. Rooney later hit the post after a through ball got him behind the defense. England was not finishing well at all. Rooney got subbed out midway through the second half because of a sore ankle. Over the last ten minutes, play got ragged and there was a lot of fouling going on. Slovenia showed nothing on offense at all and played with no urgency. They may have been scoreboard watching and with the U.S. and Algeria tied into extra time, the Slovenians may have believed that they would advance even with a loss. England, needing the win to advance, was the better team and showed flashes on offense, but the continued poor play of Gerrard and their troubling inability to finish should temper any optimism they have.
United States 1-0 Algeria: The major change in Bob Bradley’s line-up was the benching of central defender Oguchi Onyewu, whose lapses led to both Slovenian goals in the last game. The U.S. again had a mental defensive lapse early lazily attempting to block a long ball into the box and allowing Rafik Djebbour an unimpeded strike, but it fortunately hit the crossbar. The Americans counterattacked quickly and Herculez Gomez, starting for the suspended Robbie Findley, unleashed a shot that Algerian goalie Rais M’Bolhi was caught leaning the wrong way on, but dived back to just barely knock the ball out. A great run by Altidore resulted in a Gomez shot that the goalie saved, but it deflected back to Gomez who put it to Clint Dempsey on the back post for an easy goal, but he was called offside. Horrible call as Dempsey was even with the defender and the Americans had another goal stolen from them. Algerian defense was in disarray on the sequence. U.S. created a lot of first half opportunities in the box, but did not find a way to finish. The Desert Foxes counterattacked effectively, but were not getting in the box and were relegated to taking long shots. Clint Dempsey got a good early second half opportunity, but banged it off the post and weakly sent his own rebound wide. When all hope seemed nearly lost, the U.S. finally scored in stoppage time. The sequence was set up by goalie Tim Howard, who made a good save and then threw a long ball to midfield for a fast break counterattack. Jozy Altidore delivered a low cross to the middle of the box where Clint Dempsey tried to flick it past M’Bolhi, but M’Bolhi slid into it, causing the ball to bounce back to the middle of the box where Landon Donovan crushed it into the back of the net. The Americans dominated the game and deserved the win that was nearly taken from them by another bad officiating call. However, like the English, the Americans missed many opportunities and need to find a finisher if they hope to go further. You do have to like the American’s resiliency though as time and time again, they have scored late goals when they needed to. The U.S. and England finished tied for first in the group, but the U.S. scored more goals than England and thus will be the number 1 seed out of Group C on the tiebreaker.