World Cup Group C preview
Predicted order of finish:
There are two potentially decisive encounters in this group. The opening match between England and the U.S. (June 12), a clash between the two favorites to progress, has so much riding on it -- the victor here will be best placed to win the group. Under the weight of massive expectation, England has to win. The U.S. was overwhelmed in its first group game of 2006, going down 3-0 to the Czech Republic having conceded early, but there's no doubting that Bradley's men will be up for the fight here. Having beaten Spain and run Brazil close in Confederations Cup, the U.S. fears no one. England has the edge in most positions, but psychologically the sides are much closer, and neither will want to chase what could easily be a "first goal wins" encounter.
Going on the (reasonable but probably dangerous) assumption that both Slovenia and the U.S. fail to beat England but fare equally well against Algeria, their meeting on June 18 will be the key matchup in the battle for second place. It may even end the tournament prematurely for one of them. Slovenia and the U.S. have never met on a soccer field, but both sides will set themselves out to be difficult to break down, and both have attackers capable of working moments of magic. However, the U.S. should be confident of creating the better chances. If this match can't separate the two, the U.S.' matchup with Algeria in its final group game gains a great deal of meaning.