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England's World Cup comes alive

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Phil McNulty | 19:23 UK time, Wednesday, 23 June 2010

World Cup 2010: Port Elizabeth

The inquests can go on hold as England's World Cup campaign finally showed belated signs of life on the edge of the Indian Ocean - and no-one was more relieved than Fabio Capello.

Capello's elation at the win against Slovenia, a result that ensured England avoided the humiliation of failing to negotiate the group stages for the first time since 1958, was so all-consuming that the Italian's guard momentarily slipped.

At the final whistle, he allowed himself a rare display of public affection as he embraced James Milner and Matthew Upson, then delivered a post-match analysis that, for Capello at least, almost bordered on the flamboyant.

It may have been a victory against the smallest nation at this World Cup, but the price of defeat was so high its cost would have been shared by Capello, his players and the Football Association.

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Highlights - England v Slovenia (UK users only)


Capello's undisguised joy was understandable. The man who prides himself on being impervious to pressure showed he is as vulnerable as anyone as the valve was released when referee Wolfgang Stark concluded events at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

He had set the scene for the biggest game of his tenure by insisting he was "not crazy" to think England could still reach the World Cup final.

Hard evidence was impossible to detect before England met Slovenia, especially in the dire deadlock with Algeria. This was hardly concrete proof that England are contenders to win the tournament, but at least there were signs they might make yet make a serious impact in South Africa.

At the end of a week when Capello and England's players were rightly pilloried for their performance against Algeria and there was talk of a mini-revolt behind the iron gates of their Rustenburg training base, a World Cup exit in Port Elizabeth was unthinkable.

It would have, in all likelihood, ended Capello's reign and failure on such a scale might also have resulted in a wide-ranging investigation into the very fabric of English football.

So victory was Capello and England's only option, no matter how they achieved it. The fact that England did it with something approaching style was an added bonus.

Capello revealed he even loosened the strings by offering his players the chance of a beer the night before the game, an offer that was apparently refused. And he was in expansive mood as he looked like a man who had been reacquainted with old friends.

He claimed England's spirit had been rediscovered and they were now ready to meet all the challenges ahead. Quite a reacton - some might say over-reaction - to a win against a country with more brown bears than professional footballers.

And challenges there will be, with a last 16 meeting against Germany in Bloemfontein followed by a potential quarter-final confrontation with Diego Maradona's Argentina.

As so many negatives have surrounded England and Capello, it is a relief to report genuine signs of progress, although this all must be placed in context by the standard of opposition.

And England cannot escape the charge that their failings in draws against the United States and Algeria have presented them with a hazardous World Cup path to negotiate.

Capello's big calls against the United States were criticised here. Robert Green's selection in goal had catastrophic consequences, injury-plagued Ledley King did not last the course and James Milner was replaced after 30 minutes.

England's coach deserves credit this time. Jermain Defoe justified his selection with the winner, a lesson for Capello who finally accepted Emile Heskey's role as non-scoring striker was no longer viable, while Milner returned to create the goal and finally provide proper service from the flanks.

Capello's big players also rose to the occasion. Steven Gerrard, England's best player in South Africa so far, was the pick again as he drove forward relentlessly and reaped the benefit from playing in closer attendance to Wayne Rooney.

The pair looked more potent without Capello tampering too much with his tried and trusted 4-4-2 framework. Without getting carried away, it is the foundation for increased optimism about England.

And in defence Terry was outstanding, proving once again that he has the strength of character to park off-the-field controversies when the action starts.

England played with the high tempo that suits them, looked better on the ball with Gareth Barry having a greater influence until he tired.

Rooney's fitness still remains a worry as he nurses an ankle injury. He has also temporarily lost his touch in front of goal, but there was enough good signs to offer encouragement.

The result has wider significance in lifting a cloud that has hung over England since their arrival in Rustenburg. Capello's men finally looked like they were enjoying their work at long last.

England beating Slovenia is not a cause for national pride or rejoicing, more a sense of relief, and it would be a return to old failings if the law was suddenly laid down to teams who have shown far more since the World Cup started.

But England and Capello should be thankful for small mercies. They can now plan for the last 16 as opposed to flying out of Johannesburg and into one of the biggest storms of criticism they have ever faced.

Has England's World Cup finally started? We will soon receive the answer.

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS

DAVID JAMES: Solid performance. Safe handling when presented with treacherous six-yard area. 7.

GLEN JOHNSON: Good going forward again and made crucial block. Harshly booked for diving. 7.

ASHLEY COLE: Steady as ever. 6.

JOHN TERRY: Commanding and committed after a traumatic week. Almost scored with a header. 8.

MATTHEW UPSON: Nervous in the early stages but superb saving tackle late on. 7.

JAMES MILNER: Also showed some nerves at the start but settled to deliver a fine cross for Jermain Defoe's goal and redeemed himself after poor first game against the United States. 7.

GARETH BARRY: Looked fitter than he did against Algeria and knitted it together well in midfield until he tired. 6.

FRANK LAMPARD: Improved performance and nice touches. 6.

STEVEN GERRARD: Top man again. Led by example and was an influence throughout. England's best player in the World Cup up to this stage. 8.

WAYNE ROONEY: Better than against Algeria, showing some real touches of class but should have scored with a second-half chance. 6.

JERMAIN DEFOE: Took his goal with his usual poacher's instinct. 6.

SUBSTITUTES:

JOE COLE: Energetic cameo. 6.

EMILE HESKEY: Brief appearance. No rating.

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Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Harsh on Ashley and too nice to Barry. Barry was just awful today, again, never ever seen a professional give the ball away so much as he did. He better step up or we might just get punished.

    Otherwise, dominant win that deserved more than a 1-0.

    Upson deserves his place. (LFC Fan)

  • Comment number 2.

    Phil, I watched a different game. Johnson was poor defensively, Terry made some great blocks but his passing was poor, Lampard was largely anonymous, Barry ran slowly around fouling and giving up possession. When Joe Cole came on he didn't really do anything that suggested he had been missed. Not what I would call a cameo.

    The performance was much better, though speed of passing is still too slow. Rooney was much more involved without the option to kick it long to Heskey. He will score soon, and when better than against Germany in the next game? Having another goal-scorer on the field, even one who didn't touch the ball much, is the way to go. Gerrard worked hard, but seemed reluctant to shoot on a number of occasions when on the left foot. Milner needs to be given the ball more and told to whip those crosses in quickly. This seemed our best option for creating goal-scoring chances and this in turn will then create space in the middle.

    Hopefully in the next game the players will deserve the marks you gave them for this.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ouch! Those ratings're a bit harsh!

    I didn't see Ashley Cole do anything wrong all night, was great going forward and great at the back too, must be rated a 7, maybe an 8?

    And Milner ditto - his crossing made Lennon from the last two matches look like a schoolchild at play.

    Good blog - agreed, let's got get overexcited about this, but if the players had've been a bit more clinical in front of goal we could've easily won this 3 or 4 goals to nil.

    Bring on the Germans!

  • Comment number 4.

    An 8 for Gerrard? A 6 for A. Cole? Seems we were watching different games... Cole was one of out best players out there (personally I thought Milner was everything that was missing with England in the first two games: Passion and creativity) and although Gerrard was good he wasn't MOTM good! Gotta say I'm glad Capello didn't bow to public pressure and include J. Cole - myself and everyone I watched it with were very unimpressed with his (albeit limited) contribution.
    Final note to David James - first time in his career I've had faith in him!

  • Comment number 5.

    I would argue that Ashley Cole has been our best performer so far, and played better today then Johnson did, but I can't really argue with the rating you've given.

    I wonder whether Upson will start against Germany? For me he looked far more assured then Carragher and King have done.

    Additionally, should we go out to Germany in the next round would we deem it a failure? Of course we expect to go further then the last 16 but Germany are clearly a quality team and there would be no shame in losing to them.

  • Comment number 6.

    England scraped through against the smallest country in the competition. Excuse me if I keep my celebrations low key for now.

  • Comment number 7.

    Calm down Phil; it wasn't that great....Lampard os still off the pace and Rooney quite simply isn't fully at the races yet ! We will pay a heavy price for the appalling display against Algeria....last 16 heartache at the hands of the 'old enemy'. They are technically better than us and will probably out pass us in the middle of the park on Sunday. Lampard amd Barry were poor again today.....and the form of those two will be the key agaist the Germans.
    I love the line about 'more brown bears than footballers !'....we have some serious questions to ask ourselves at the end of the tournament. It is not acceptable for players on the inflated wages we pay them, to struggle past the likes of Slovenia....if this is the case, then the whole wage / performance related pay issue in English football needs to be tackled sooner rather than later. They obviously are not worth the money, if they cannot get the basics right. Let's be honest, none of them look comfortable and confident with the ball....and for that reason I am afraid we will get found out (probably by Germany, and definitely by Argentina).

  • Comment number 8.

    Picking Green had disatrous consequences - this had nothing to do with the choice of gk. This was a freak mistake that you would not expect from a sunday league gk, nevermind one from the PL. So that was not FC's mistake.

    Your player ratings are ridiculous - Forgotten JT giving the ball away passing square across goal. And not just him, really, do we watch the same game?

    No mention of the pitch - a danger to play on it looked like.

    If we had stuck six past them would that have papered over the gaping chasms in this team. We may pull it together to beat Germany but today, apart from 10-15 mins at the start of 2nd half, we were dire again against a team who were kind enough to be even worse than us. Make no mistake, Slovenia were a very poor team and I saw nothing to suggest we are back on track.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm an American, living in the UK, someone for whom "football" means helmets and shoulder pads... But I took off work early to watch the ENGLAND (not the USA) game...

    Ashley Cole was an 8 or 9 - sharp, energetic, smart, and consistent. John Terry was a 9, huge heart on display throughout. Steven Gerrard an 8, great all-round game... Frank Lampard a 5 (seems slow and ponderous to me, with passing and shooting touch missing), Barry a 4 (seems always at risk of losing possession), Defoe a 7... Rooney deserved a 7 as well - despite a desperate desire to score, he was unselfish, better at possession, and SO close on a couple of occasions...

    Great game, great result!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Barry has been garbage so far this WC, he gives the ball away far too easily and his sloppy Man City form has spread to England form.

  • Comment number 11.

    Gerrard in centre and he might get a (10) worth a go I think!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    phil, are you in a relationship with gerrard? I have honestly never known a football 'expert' so obsessed with a single player as you!

    I trust now that capello has finally accepted the value of both defoe and milner, both played very well and carried out their tasks superbly. Defoe should maybe have scored early in the second half but he gets the benefit of the doubt as rooney, heskey, lampard etc have all been off target in front of goal so far. personally I thought milner was outstanding, to me he epitomises the so called 'english spirit' that people talk about in such a way that only terry can better

  • Comment number 13.

    For starters, well done England, however, we will only progress if Capello drops Lampard (sorry, but what has he done so far) and plays Gerrard behind the front two. Not sure if Rooney should be in the team, hasn't done anything yet, I just hope he does, and soon. I would put Barry in front of the back four and play a defensive role with J. Cole and Milner has the wide men and Captain marvellous in an attacking role, in the diamond formation. Stick with James in goal, and A. Cole at right back, Johnson at left back and bring back the experienced Carragher and Terry in the centre. Up front should be Rooney (only if he pulls his finger out) and Crouch ( I think he will cause the Germans problems), sorry Defoe, but a sub for me, as well as Heskey. Capello must change things if we are to progress to the Quarter finals.

    G - James
    D - A. Cole
    D - Terry
    D - Carragher
    D - Johnson
    M - Barry
    M - J. Cole
    M - Milner
    M - GERRARD (C)
    F - Rooney
    F - Crouch

    Come On England, beat the Germans once again.

  • Comment number 14.

    Would have given Defoe a 7 for scoring the goal that got us into the last 16 but otherwise fair marks I think.

    Let's be under no illusion. We will have to improve significantly again to get the better of the Germans. But it's definitely possible.

    I refuse to speculate after that and so should the team. Good luck.

  • Comment number 15.

    The main positive about this campaign for me is seeing the public's reaction at home. Schools finished early for the game, bingo halls were filled with chearing elderly people, whilst tv's were turned on at work. Football has united the country, and it is great to see the effect the team can have. Can we win it though? Very unlikely. 4-4-2 is still a major question mark imo, but hopefully we can progress further.

    Also, well done for our fans - the first time that for nearly 90 minutes, singing has drowned out the vuvuzelas!

  • Comment number 16.

    Good Bye England! Evenif you play very well against Germany you will typically lose in the penalties. Today I didn't see a world cup winner. England does not have the right character for such trophy.

  • Comment number 17.

    These ratings are very harsh on the players. I'm not great fans of gerrard and milner, but i do agree with those ratings. All the england players deserve 8's quite frankly. I know slovenia are one of the tournaments weaker sides, but they've shown they have a flair about them coming forward, and they were dealt with time and time again. Excluding the fact he didn't score, rooney did what he does best today. His intricate link up play inside the area was fabulous at times, and he was unlucky not to score. You have to admire the vision he has.

    If we play like we did today, the Germans will have a very tough game on their hands. I must say, I dont think ive ever been looking forward to a game this much. COME ON ENGLAND!!

  • Comment number 18.

    Lots of words from the Chief football writer, but he hasn't said anything.

    Reasonable first half. Some good short passing and movement in midfield, players were passing and moving, not ball watching. Milner and Barry are lacking fitness. Good to see Cole come on but he's not a centre forward, I would've thought Crouch would have been the better choice with 15 mins to go, and put Cole in the midfield. And Heskey coming on? I would have thought it was more important to bulk up the midfield when only 1-0 ahead. Germany don't look great, so a chance in the 2nd round, however the bench looks very light so I doubt England will go further than the 1/4s unfortunately. You still haven't answered my question about Beckham, it seems you may have finally realised that tournaments are very much about the squad, unlike qualifying. I would feel much more confident if Beckham was on the bench, and I'm probably not the only one.

  • Comment number 19.

    Yes I think they definitely improved but still far short of potential. This was just Slovenia, what about Germany next or a team like Mexico even? I also think Germany's 1-0 was far better value against arguably one of Aficas strongest sides, and I really enjoyed it as a neutral.

    England are talented and highly paid, against their group they should have flew to 6 points easily at worst, everyone knows it! Then, even if the worst happens at later stages, at least they could take home some great memories. So, far, I have to frankly say, they've been dull, given the talent available. Funny because for that first 10 minute in the USA game, the real England were there for all to see.

  • Comment number 20.

    Villaox. Stevie G is the best ENGLISH player so far, He is the ultimate all round player and should be knighted. Keep up the good blogs Phil.

  • Comment number 21.

    So, we've done the minimum necessary so far, and avoided total humiliation. Those dropped points come with a price, though - we now play Germany, followed by Argentina if we get that far. Topping the group would've meant Ghana followed by South Korea or Uruguay!

    Still, imagine the sheer joy of facing Deutchland on Sunday and beating them. It's a fantastic opportunity, and I am allowing myself to believe that England can take it- without penalties. Come on.

  • Comment number 22.

    England were better today, but still not good enough yet...

    Gerrard played better, maybe the Liverpool kit helped! Shhh... don't tell him it was the England away kit!

    If they show some passion & pride and find some energy from somewhere, they may give the Germans a game, but Argentina will be a different story if we make the quarters!

    I still believe it's Argentina's world cup for the taking.

  • Comment number 23.

    So much for the doom mongers! :) England win with a smooth passing style, probably our best performance for a while. Satisfied? Apparantly not.

    Yes we can play better, yes we could have buried them but finally England are in gear at least.

    Annoying that we didn't top the group and that means that we may yet regret our missed opportunities earlier in the group stages a la '98. However, the Germans are not invincible. It all depends on which England side turns up so let's see what happens.

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm most relieved for Capello, he really didn't deserve any of the hard feelings after the 2 games and even if England lost today. He showed real character in rearranging the squad, subduing any squad factions and the media, and pulling the campaign out of the fire. Well done.

  • Comment number 25.

    Although i agree Slovenia are no Brazil, i resent the media reeling out statements such as 'Quite a reaction - some might say over-reaction - to a win against a country with more brown bears than professional footballers.'

    Phil here misses the point, does it matter the population of your nation? No,it's about the 11 footballers on the pitch, who, in Slovenia's case, are decent footballers who are unfortunate not to progress in this tournament.

    I mean, really Phil, i respect your blogs, but less quips and more sensible commentary.

  • Comment number 26.

    Much better outing for England, although it would of course have been difficult not to improve on the Algeria performance.

    I did have to laugh at one of the comments in another blog on this site, that said "apart from his goal, what did Defoe do?". In a free choice, I'd sooner take a striker that touches the ball once and scores, over one that touches it 30 times and couldnt score in a br...you know.

    Of course, we now have to consider what is basically the hardest possible draw for the remainder of the tournament. To win the cup from here we seem to have to go through Germany,Argentina,Spain and Brazil, judging from current form (though Spain may not win their group, in which case its going to be the Netherlands instead). The good thing is that people like Barry are playing themselves back to match fitness, so should get better and better. Milner without his virus is showing why he got into the squad in the first place, which a lot of people seemed to forget after his opening game. The defence is still far from perfect, but then we can only work with what is available to us.

  • Comment number 27.

    missed this one...'It may have been a victory against the smallest nation at this World Cup'. Indeed, but they have a rich footballing history and although having to pick from 2 million people (only), they're a good side. (Slovenia actually a new state formed from yugoslavia who got to the last 16 in 1998)

    So Phil less of the hyperbole, and more sensible commentary. bleedin' journalists.

  • Comment number 28.

    Well, I don't necessarily agree with your player ratings, Phil, but the performance of England today combined with that of Germany's against Ghana means I'm pretty confident going in to the last sixteen; I believe that we have a squad well capable of beating the Germans.

    It annoys me that this comment will undoubtedly be received by many who read it as the typical English viewpoint of "one win and we'll win the world cup"; that's not what I intend to adhere to.

    But it is possible that the Algeria game was merely a blip in what may become a successful campaign.

    After all, what we need in England is a little perspective on both sides; people tend to fall down on the side of extreme pessimism or extreme optimism. I'm not saying we'll win the world cup, but I still think we have a good chance of going the distance in this tournament.

    Some may look at our campaign so far and be disappointed - 2 goals from 3 games doesn't exactly scream tournament winners - but we need to take this in the context of England's performances and that of the other front runners.

    Against the USA we were fairly solid (not great, but solid), creating chances and putting in a decent effort, albeit one that didn't get anyone too excited. Today we were more like the team we have come to expect and in my opinion should have won it by three or four goals. We underperformed against Algeria in a bad way, but we have to think that apart from a horrible error by Green that must be put down as a freak accident, we have yet to concede in the tournament.

    Spain were defeated by Switzerland, and Germany by Serbia. They are two fixtures that should have been "walkovers" for the Spaniards and the Germans, yet nobody seems to be questioning the integrity of those teams.

    We have yet to lose a match, and people are still pessimistic.

    Whether you believe England will get knocked out on Sunday or progress, we have to get behind the team. We are a group of fans that are incredibly hard to please at times: when England under-perform, we are absolutely savage. Yet at the same time we mustn't kid ourselves that we will dominate the rest of the world cup; there's still a long, long way to go and we still need to improve a lot for that to happen.

    BUT, we came in to the tournament as one of the favourites, and in my view we still are. I believe that, and so should you. Regardless of what your head says, follow your heart and GET BEHIND ENGLAND.

    Roll on Sunday.

  • Comment number 29.

    Interesting to read how differently things can be seen. England's performance was GOOD; They lost 2 or 3 clear chances to score. If they could only finish these chances, a big opportunity is there for England to progress. As per ratings on the players, am sorry but for me Barry was insecure, lost concentration or tired, he lost possession at times and missed simple passes. Lampard was slow but he picked Rooney with a superb pass that should've ended in the net. A. Cole, reliable and energetic, did his job with class. Milner was always dangerous but in my opinion should get rid of the ball faster. Defoe did what he needed to do and reason for his selection, score; Should've scored a second. Rooney rediscovered some of his skills but needs sharpness. Terry was solid and as Phil said, he almost scored but did miss critical passes. Upson started very nervous and did a decent job afterwards; His last save is worthy of his selection. Johnson also started nervous but composed himself and his moving forward created danger. Gerrard was visibly all over the pitch and created good chances; Certainly one of England's best i would say. J. Cole did nothing spectacular but can't be judged with the rest since he had less time on the pitch. Heskey, same thing but wasn't expecting anything from him.
    In the end, i believe things happen for a reason, and playing Germany is a match will suit England better than Ghana. If they win, Argentina could be next; And what a great chance to beat Maradona's team, with another hand of God.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    I don't understand why Lamps is taking stick, he played Rooney in for the disallowed goal and his missed opportunity. He also rarely gave the ball away. Everyone is saying Gerrard is playing much better but its only because Lampard has to do a job for the team and not play in his comfort zone of pushing up more.

  • Comment number 32.

    Everyone likes to jump on the Glen Johnson can't defend bandwagon, even when he's had a good game, but he's barely made a defensive mistake in this world cup. He is a much better defender than some people give him credit for. (And there's no doubt he's quality going forward).

  • Comment number 33.

    US fan here. I have been surprised to see how tough the road has been for both the US and England to get out of Group C. For the USA, disallowed goals aside, the problem seems to be a backfield that is eager to continue with pre-game warmups after kickoff. For England, the problem seems to be the absence of conditioning and hunger. Having watched England closely in its last 3 games, I suspect its fans will be disappointed with an early exit; most likely against Germany. If not, then almost certainly against Argentina in the quarters, which is playing the most creative soccer I have seen since the Brazil squad of 1982, and to a lesser extent, the Maradona-led team of 1986 (hand of God aside). As for the USA, a trip to the quarters is likely. It has the benefit of having few expectations heaped on its shoulders, and it certainly has no lack of guts.

  • Comment number 34.

    Well finally a good, solid and positive performance from our England lads that ended with a narrow scoreline which utterly flattered a poor Slovenian side. We showed more passion and hunger, quality and confidence in this final group game than in both of the other games combined and I have to say that England have done very well to go from 'frustrating, profligate' against the USA to 'flat, uninterested, sloppy' against Algeria to turn up against Slovenia and play so well with such quality and passion to win.

    I think England have finally found a formation, combination of players and tactics that works best for them at the moment and I really hope Capello and his coaches don't mess with it and tinker unnecessarily. I've been calling for the inclusion of Milner, Joe Cole and Defoe since the start of the tournament while I feel all were missed in previous games not including substitute appearances, today they boosted the team and showed why they should be in the team. Rooney was better than before, but still nowhere near his natural best and not good enough by his standards, Gerrard was first-class and has definitely been our best player in this tournament so far. Lampard looked decent but still not at his best, Barry played well until the last 20 minutes when he looked tired. Our back line looked solid, organised and tidy throughout and was rarely put under any real threat, with James in goal marshalling well and putting in a solid performance himself which spread confidence forward throughout the team. I would personally not make any changes to the starting line-up in terms of personnel for the next game, but I would look at having Lampard as a holding midfielder, Gerrard in an attacking central role with Milner and Barry on the outside of a diamond-shape midfield. It puts everyone in a natural, well-suited role and will allow them all to play to their strengths, Joe Cole and Emile Heskey must be ready to come on as attacking substitutes because we might need their skills and quality later on against Germany.

    We will have a big clash on Sunday, it will by no means be easy nor will we likely have a minute's peace for attacking and defending hard to win the game, but I am much more confident about our chances of doing well from now on having watched us yesterday afternoon and Germany afterwards. I think Germany were far from at their best against Ghana, never really getting out of second gear and riding their luck that the Australia-Serbia match would work in their favour throughout the night.

    This German side is definitely not as strong or 'intimidating' as that of the last World Cup and even more recently the last European Championship tournament. They started brightly against a meagre Australian side that looked nervous and shaky throughout and spent a large part of the game with 10 men after their star striker was sent off very unfairly. So that opening win for Germany was hardly convincing as Australia were poor and made them look better than they were, and while Germany's attacking players may have had a good chance to stretch their legs their back line was rarely troubled and so against a better opponent that may have been a different game. The Serbians went into their meeting with Germany hungry for a win to kick-start their World Cup campaign, and they were more upbeat and organised on that day thus earning their victory against a flat German side; which goes to show that this German team is still only human and very prone to off days even against arguably weaker opposition. Then we have this final group game against Ghana, this was the first real test of character and quality for Germany as their opponent was in the same situation as them needing to win to be sure of progression to the next round. Germany never really got a firm hold on the game and never got out of second gear, which Ghana seized upon often by pushing forward and having a good go at the German goal; frankly Ghana looked good value for at least a draw, besides a wonder strike from Ozul the Germans created nothing in front of the opposition's goal and didn't look convincing as winners of the match and the group.

    I think this German side is showing its clear lack of experience and leadership on the pitch, this much younger squad is yet to be tested by a bigger and better quality opponent and judging them by their first three performances so far they may well receive a 'culture shock' of sorts by way of a rude awakening from England. England's performances have not been at all consistent in this tournament nor have they been overly impressive, but our third game yesterday showed far more quality, passion, confidence and drive than Germany have shown in any of their group games. Whilst it appears England might have finally kicked themselves into life in their campaign with experience rubbing off on others in the squad to good effect, Germany looked last night like they were lost for ideas and were not their usual organised selves at any point. They look to be on a downward turn in form, while England might be beginning to hit an upturn, so maybe now is the best time to face a team like Germany?

    I think if England can carry the momentum and morale boost from yesterday through to Sunday, show that same passion, quality and confidence to win the game and even more then we really do look good enough to beat Germany and progress further. I'm confident and think England will win this knockout clash 2-1.

  • Comment number 35.

    Wow, England looked liked a team today. Slovenia, despite being the smallest nation in the World Cup, are a handy little side and are no pushovers.

    Gerrard - England's best player this tournament - played a really good game. His distribution was fantastic and it always looked like something was going to happen with him on the attack. Captain material he most definitely is at the moment - dare I say it, better captain material than Rio Ferdinand would of been?

    Hopefully Rooney will keep improving and get sharper for Sunday's match.

  • Comment number 36.

    @ 25

    I agree, we haven't seen China or India winning any world cups, or even qualifying with their massive populations and the USA have yet to win one either...

    Whilst Uruguay's 3.3 million population has managed to win it twice

    England's 49 million puts us 24th in the world of most populated countries, but we're ranked 8th in the world, I think we're punching above our weight then, based on Phil's population theory!

  • Comment number 37.

    It was better however the wings are a huge concern so far the only good crosses have come from Milner, the huge concern is the fact that every time someone in the middle disposssses and opposition run forward England run back with them and get lauded for good tackling THIS IS WRONG! It could prove fatefull sooner rather than later defense at this level must be attack.

  • Comment number 38.

    Rooney, Heskey, Defoe!!!

    What about the player with the best current goals/game scoring record for England?

    When's Crouch getting his chance to show us what he's made of?

    Bring on the robotic dancing and get rid of the robotic playing!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    Enough about "the opposition". They took out my "dark horse" for the World Cup back in November - Russia, who themselves dismantled Holland in the Euros in one of the finest displays of football I've seen in a long time. Slovenia are no mugs, and today's win was more impressive for the fact that it could have been a thumping.

    We're playing OUR style now, and a combination of width and earlier delivery will give us a great chance of making further progress. People were "leading" all over the pitch instead of waiting for someone else to do something special. If Rooney can join that list we'll go far.

    I think we have a side that will do better against the so-called "power houses" than against the perceived minnows.

  • Comment number 40.

    No adversary should be taken lightly but differently. Algeria was an unknown team for England and such teams always confuse. In my opinion, England always perform better when playing with higher ranked teams; Germany is one of them. It will suit them better. Also, will have a "4 year period" opportunity to win their ruthless enemy in world cups. Then if things happen to be on their side, they could face Argentina, and wonderful would be to beat those 2. It seems like a dream today but that's football: 1 day you are nay saying and the next you are dreaming. Today is time to dream.

  • Comment number 41.

    Upson gets a 7 and Defoe gets a 6? In the first half i don't think Upson managed to pass the ball to a teammate, preferring to pass to our opponents or simply into empty space whilst Defoes movement finally gave our wide players something to aim at & preoccupied their defence allowing a bit of space for Rooney, gerrard et al to get things going. The game was won in the first half.

    defoe missed a couple granted but the difference having a striker who actually wants to get the ball in the box rather than being afraid of it was a galvanising factor.

    I'm still not convinced with our central midfield though, but apart from that it was beter all round.

  • Comment number 42.

    Phil....best player in last 3 games was Steven Gerard? What games were you watching? Oh wait, you are a Liverpool man...I forgot. Ashley Cole has been England's best player by a million miles. Bar none! So far England's player of the tournament has been Mr. Cole. He deserves an 8 at least from each game.

  • Comment number 43.

    Must look different in the stadium, 'cos on the telly Ashley Cole and James Milner did really well! John Terry diving in the box was impressive
    (and he's comfortably our loudest anthem grunter) but you scored him our joint best player with Gerrard... Gareth Barry looked fine one minute and a total liability the next. And am I alone in thinking Solvenia should have had a penalty in the last few minutes when Johnson pulled a clumsy tackle in our box? We've got to beat the Germans if only to pave the way to Argentina and make the swarthy Diego put the hand of God in to the pocket of the cheap suit to find his bus fare home.

  • Comment number 44.

    If Group C was EASY then Germany should be a breeze!

  • Comment number 45.

    Have to agree with 42, A Cole hasn't put a foot wrong all tournament and had a good game last night why the 6? Sunday = 0 - 0 + Penalties hope they have been practising. Should be with Psycho on board. Put Joe Hart in goal though and we might stand a chance

  • Comment number 46.

    Slovenia might be the smallest country competing in this year's World Cup, but their FIFA ranking is no. 25 plus:
    1. They beat Russia (rank no.11) in a 2 legged playoff to qualify.
    2. Although Algeria were a man down, they did BEAT the African representative (which England didn't)
    3. AND they were leading 2-0 against USA (who topped the group mind you).
    Please have some perspective. Even the Algerians have a decent team. They were only JUST beaten by Slovenia (playing with 10 men)and USA ( a goal in the injury time), and managed a draw against a full strength England.
    SO in the final analysis, England did well considering the fact that a large portion of their first team players were either injured or coming back from injury. May i give a Brazilian analogy to demonstrate this? Imagine Brazil were playing:
    1. MISSING: Lucio (captain, central defender i.e. R. Ferdinand)
    2. COMING BACK FROM INJURY:
    Felipe Melo (defensive midfielder i.e G. Barry),
    Elano (right sided midfielder i.e A. Lennon/or T. Walcott),
    Luis Fabiano (main striker i.e. W.Rooney)
    All of which just managed to shake off injuries so are playing without match fitness or more importantly, match sharpness.
    Catch my drift?

  • Comment number 47.

    Thank goodness we have a pro running the side in Capello who understands the game and man management - Gerrard has been a disgrace up until now with his refusal to play his role on the left in a 442 against Algeria being an act of petulance that could have cost his team and country a continued place in the competition - he has done it before and shows a basic lack of character that shows his "third choice" status as captain is something Capello never expected to have to actually rely on. Capello has obviously not bowed to the opinions of amateurs like Phil McNulty and got hold of him after the Algeria game and left him in no doubt about his role. In 442 you provide protection for your left back and everyone has to rely on you to be there to cover and chase and harry and wait for the opposing team to come onto you - you cannot roam around leaving gaps and show everyone how unhappy you are by refusing to chase back when not in possession - thank goodness for Capello and his strength of character and man management skills that have ensured Gerrard has had to park his ego - perhaps he can continue as part of the team but if he tries it on again I think Capello will, and should, leave him out.

  • Comment number 48.

    Milner was good for the cross for the goal but his slow attempts at Ronaldo-style step-overs were embarrassing, and that nonsense with Joe Cole at the end was shameful.

    Still in general the team looked so much better. I would still play Lennon on the right, Joe Cole on the left, and Gerard with Rooney. If this doesn't break down Germany, bring in Defoe to replace Cole or Lennon.

    Good play for James, he looked solid today.

  • Comment number 49.

    A victory but nothing much has changed. A free flowing football is still absent. To progress beyond the Germans;

    Lampard - has to be dropped. Absolutely useless in all the 3 matches.

    Barry - the supposed saviour after the first game was abysmal.

    J. Cole - the supposed saviour from the word go was anything but that yesterday. He was running around like a headless chicken, like Gerrard did in the first match.

    We have no one in the mould of Messi, Xavi, Kaka etc. The team has to combine well and put in workmen like performance. It won the Euro for Greece. The possibility exists......... but it would kill the joy of the world cup just like Greece's Euro victory in 2004 did.

  • Comment number 50.

    FairisDvirus---Excellent analogy and puts in perspective with all the pressure England's acheivement and performance it could've been 3-4 0!
    I'm definitely in the positive / optomistic camp and the Germans will have to be warey of us !

    Come on England , not interested in individual marks either its whole team performance that counts as was demonstrated tonight !

  • Comment number 51.

    The Germans will be the first team to play us that will actually set out to play football, get people forwards and win the game. In our previous games, other teams have simply tried to stiffle us. This should give us far more room to play and we will get far more chances. The Germans did not create too many clear cut chances last night ann Ghana could easily have scored a couple.

    WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR EXCEPT FEAR ITSELF!

    We need someone to control midfield though. Lampard does not do this. We need to drop him for Carrick or Joe Cole

  • Comment number 52.

    I can't believe that Capello offered the England players a beer the night before!! And they refused!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    Barry gave the ball away to many times, other teams will take advantage of his soft give aways. overall the team played well but Lampard has to bring his cub form to the WC I still think we should have a 4 4 1 1 formation.

  • Comment number 54.

    Your not a Liverpool fan are you? Gerrard was awful against Algeria but did improve today. There was one very telling moment in the match where Rooney played a great one two with Gerrard, setting him clean through and Defoe was making a run square. Rooney switched of, thinking his job for that move was done and waiting for Gerrard to shoot or play it to Defoe, and Gerrard for some reason played it back to Rooney, who had no space and didn't expect it so ended up losing it.

    That pretty much sums up England really. We're have moments of real magic football and balance them out with complete stupidity. The players still aren't quite on the same wavelength.

  • Comment number 55.

    This is what's going to happen in New Zealand when the All Whites beat Paraguay today!

    http://www.youtube.com/user/hadleighsinclair#p/u/4/ZXA7aCkjHnI

  • Comment number 56.

    #1 and #3,

    Agreed! Especially if you correlate the ratings with that given for the other gamer. Seems as though Mr. McNulty has an issue with Ashley Cole. A grudge of some sort. LOL.

  • Comment number 57.

    "It ( defeat) would have, in all likelihood, ended Capello's reign and failure on such a scale might also have resulted in a wide-ranging investigation into the very fabric of English football."

    Well we scraped through by one goal against the smallest nation in the World Cup so I would imagine the investigation might have to be initiated after all. And I suggest the first topic should be players wages, incentives and contractual responsibilities.

    Relief - everyone is overcome with relief after getting through a group that any class side could win easily.

    The good thing is - we can only get better.

  • Comment number 58.

    England maintained decent tempo at sea level in Port Elizabeth, can they do the same at Bloemfontein altitude? The Germans will have been practising on Everest. Their trains run on time. Their beer tastes good. They still have a manufacturing industry. Their management staff wear matching cardigans. Enough said.

  • Comment number 59.

    I have done a lot of England bashing over the past few weeks. I admit now that it is a bit sad.

    Lets put things in perspective though please, England have done the minimum required to qualify from an easy group.

    Please dont get carried away because thats the reason the haters (like me admittedly) get nasty.

    Peace

    ASG

  • Comment number 60.

    Lampard has been so disappointing in this world cup, never looked the same player we see week in and out in the premiership.

    I dont know what it is with players who play for england, is it the pressure and expectations that they cant deal with?

  • Comment number 61.

    Lucky we have a good defense. Three games- conceded one goal. Terry and Upson were great, Cole was the only player vs Algeria and Johnson looks classy.
    Lets get the forwards going and take some teams apart!

  • Comment number 62.

    Great stuff yesterday, we played so good and we're really unlucky not to win by 3 or 4. our luck seems bad at the moment though, not only have we got the Germans now but if we overcome them then the team of the WC so far (Argentina) will probably be waiting for us in the next round. Not great news but as they say luck tends to even itself out! So hopfully after Green, All those almost goals last night and a bum 2nd round/QF draw we have plenty of lucky breaks coming our way on the pitch.

  • Comment number 63.

    Phil, in your article yesterday i predicted Defoe and Milner coming in to the squad rather tham Phillips and Lennon, and how good was my guess. Also i said that Barry did not have the skills to hold the midfield which was quite evident. Surely you can finally agree that Beckham would have been a great asset to this team Phil.
    For the next game, this sqauad should start the game, and probably Crouch coming in as a substitute. My only worry is Rooney, this WC seems to be either too big for him (a bit harsh), but certainly lets call a spade a Spade, Rooney is not the talisman of this team, Gerrard is. This team can function properly without Rooney, but just imagin a line up without Gerrard, and i see us on the next plane home.
    Good luck to Capello and the team for the next game against Germany, but i would say these set of Germans are there for the taking as they dont seem to have the resilience of past German teams which had experinced players

  • Comment number 64.

    #33 - to compare the current Argentinians with the Brazil side of '82 is just a bt absurd at this stage. Yes, they look good but they don't come close to matching the creativity and imagination of Zico's Brazil.

    The comparison with the Argentina side of '86 is also a little strange. They were a poor side who benefitted from having the greatest player in the world in the greatest form of his life. There was little, if any, creativity from any other Argentine in that tournament.

    Either way, an improvement from England last night. Not hard to see us losing to Germany, but also not beyond the realms of imagination to see us nicking a win. On present form the Germans have to be favourites but if our players can continue their improvement in order to put in an excellent rather than merely good performance then we're in with a shout. Its hard to be too optimistic but it should be a cracking game and I can't wait.

  • Comment number 65.

    I am frankly surprised anyone got more than 7.

  • Comment number 66.

    England ... and everyone else for that matter, need to be positive. They know that they have more in the locker and if they can focus on improving (playing Germany next will help with that) I'm sure they'll give the Germans a run for their money at least.
    I'm glad its Germany next - at least the press will focus on THAT game - if we'd drawn Ghana, the press would've spent the next four days talking about who we'd play in the Quarter finals, as if Ghana didn't even exist, because that's what the English press do and then we wonder why people think that we're arrogant.
    On a superstitious note - I changed my England shirt to a red one for watching the game last night.. because the white one wasn't working! But seriously, how many times have England actually PLAYED better and/or just won games when wearing Red??????!!!!!!!
    Someone needs to check that statistic out!!!

    Come on England :-)

  • Comment number 67.

    Ok. So we managed to raise up a win, but a tortuous one at that. We still looked slow and lethargic at times, with Rooney still lacking his zest and snap, and cutting a under-fit exhasperated figure when he was substituted.

    The win was welcomed with nothing more than a concerned smile, it cannot nor does not obliterate the awfulness of the previous two travesties, but the relief is welcomed nontheless.

    Of course, Germany will be a much sterner test, and I should think we will be on the back foot most of the game. Milner looks to be a potent unlocker of defences with his sometimes great crosses, but he his going to have to be even more determined against a well-organised German defence...this is one game that is going to require Gerrard in the middle, just behind Rooney. I don't think this game is unwinnable, but England are going to have to raise their game even more. We have still to see agression and disciplined organisation carried throughout the full ninety minutes. In fact, if Ghana hadn't faffed about with the ball around the opposition's goalmouth, it might've been them, instead of Germany that we would be playing.

    Still, even if England were to come home as World Cup champions, this campaign has brought to the fore unasked questions that have been wanting to be aired for many many years regarding English football, particularly regarding its infrastructure, its financial obscenities, unfair pricing policies, and the Premeier League's monopoly over the other leagues. A restructuring is definitely required if we are to improve and ensure English football continues well into the future fairly and equally for all.

  • Comment number 68.

    Excellentr performance from England yesterday - Germany will be a different test, but if they can continue to up their game - they can win.

    Was interesting to hear Capello let them have a beer before hand, and all the pundits and media hail his management for doing that. But can you imagine the fury if they can lost...Oh our fickle media!

  • Comment number 69.

    Much better but still a way to go before we are there and what better fixture to focus the mind and get fired up for than Germany!

    I am reasonablly satisfied that we have the harder side of the draw, i could have seen us not get fired up enough against a Side like South Korea and lose but i there should not be a player in the squad that wouldnt give their all for the chance to beat the Germans.

    I know it was "only Slovenia" but they are still a side that only conceeded 4 goals in qualifying and are well organised at the back, we only scored 1 but on another day it could have been 4.

    Dont know where Phil has got his scoring from but Barry would be no more than a 4 IMO, wastful in possession and fouling all the time. I thought Terry had a decent second half but in the first half he wasnt good and you seem to forget his awful pass to Upson that nearly gifted them an opening.

    Upson grew into the game from a nervous start and deserves a decent rating if for nothing more than his goal (WC?!) saving tackle at the end.

  • Comment number 70.

    Most of my comments here have been critical of Englands widemen and although England won imo they need to pack the central midfield area against Germany, Barry and Lampard up against Ozil and kheidra will get destroyed if Capello sticks with that formation. Lampard looks out of his depth to slow no penetration and is not going to ping fifty yard passes on a ten bob piece, and what has happened to the best part of his game? getting in the opponents box? Barry is a very average premiership player who has a left foot so why is he not playing out left and Gerrard in the centre? Surely that is not because Lampard and Gerrard have not set the world on fire playing together. The performance against Slovenia was pretty much the same as against the Yanks without the Greene blunder and England having a striker who strikes.

  • Comment number 71.

    Improved performance agaist a decent side who've qualified for three of the last five major tournaments and whos playeres generally play at a decent levell in the European leagues.

    To my mind, we need to sort out a couple more things before we become real contenders:

    - We gave the ball away too easily too often at the back - Cole was at fault for at least two of these, and you feel that a better side may punish us if we keep doing that.
    - We missed 5 or 6 really good chances. Had we taken one we'd have topped the group, and had an easier route through the knockout stages. We missed them all. We'll probably get fewer good chances against the Germans and we'll need to take at least two.

    Recommend passing practice for the back four and shooting practice for the front five before the next game. We'll need to improve on noth areas to beat the Germans.

  • Comment number 72.

    Much was made of Milner's cross, but actually he's been playing pretty dumb prior to the goal. His crosses have been intercepted one after another, all the time.

    Even the way Defoe scored with his shin looked like a fortune's smile.

    England's midfield consists of paper-tigers. There is something beyond belief about our times and the league where the asking price for Milner is in the 30 million pounds range. To say he's an average laborer is to overstate his non-existent to modest talents.

  • Comment number 73.

    The striking difference for me was that England stopped doing what Beckenbauer critised them for - booting the ball up , only to lose it- I call this "Rugby" ! James was the biggest culprit as well as Heskey in the Algeria game- against Slovenia were signs that we can play the passing game that seems to be a prerequisite to succeed in the world cup. This is important for the build up to scoring and for keeping possession. Passing was a bit stilted and hurried ( again should not be like Rugby- quick ball is not needed all the time), improved as match went on , but slightly worrying there was a bit of "Rugby" punting it up towards the end.

  • Comment number 74.

    Phil, England's narrow win against Slovenia has probably only extended their World Cup by four days. Germany now await instead of Ghana.

    Do you think, if England do lose to Germany, that the criticisms raised about the campaign have lost their validity?

    We did the minimum needed to scrape through and now face much tougher opponents if we progress.

    Should Capello still be shown the door and is now time for an English manager?

  • Comment number 75.

    The failure of England to win their easy group has cost them dear and this has been down to one thing - their inability to score goals.

    It's now the knock out stages so anything could happen but England have an extremely difficult run-in so don't hold your breath.

  • Comment number 76.

    Good blog phil, but poor ratings.

    Milner was an 8 at least and Ashley Cole was more solid than a 6. Johnson was only a 7 if other marks are bumped up because he wasn't as solid as you make out.

    I was more impressed with the performance and it would have been an even more convincing display had their keeper not played a blinder and we'd shown a little more clinical finishing in front of goal. It made for a tense last few minutes and we were literally inches away from going home but hopefully the cloud has been lifted and I have a feeling England will indeed play with more freedom and less pressure from now on in. For how long that will be, nobody can say with the quality of opposition to come.

  • Comment number 77.

    I'm a little tired of the negative posts surrounding Englands performance and comments that "well, we only scraped through". Typical english approach (and yes I am English) - we win the game, qualify for the next stage and yet we still feel the need to moan and complain. And I hate being negative about other peoples negative comments....

    Yes we have played better in the past, no we won't win with performances to date but let's face it - we are not good enough on paper to win the world cup and we have no divine right to win it - which is why we are #8 in the rankings - a good quarter-final team.

    Personally, I loved the game - and to all those who seem to think that we struggled: we should have had 3, we had 65% of the posssession and yes, the other team are allowed to attack and try and score against us.

    I personally think we can beat Germany (who lost to Serbia and 'struggled' against Ghana who are 7 places below Slovenia in the world rankings) and can't wait for the game. Hopefully we will see an improved performance again and a win but stop the moaning and celebrate the positives for a change.

  • Comment number 78.

    As much as I dislike the guy Ashley Cole has easily been our best player. It almost like it's all too easy for him.

    Thank god for Upson, great tackle that kept us in the tournament.

  • Comment number 79.

    38. At 02:48am on 24 Jun 2010, toki1971 wrote:
    Rooney, Heskey, Defoe!!!

    What about the player with the best current goals/game scoring record for England

    ----

    who nugent?????

  • Comment number 80.

    Gerrard England's best player last night and throughout the World Cup so far? I really don't think so! Milner did much more than Gerrard last night and apart from bright openings to the other group games Gerrard has been pretty anonymous.

    As long as Rooney is failing to score then, yes, maybe we need a goalscorer in Defoe on the pitch. However his failure to get involved in the build up or put defenders under pressure is something of a concern for me. For all of the perceived faults of Heskey his link play is always very good and he never goes missing in games.

    I hope last nights performance puts to bed all the silly demands for Joe Cole to play. He's had about an hour of decent football all season, he is out of form and does not deserve to be on the pitch. Impact substitute at best, and last night one who failed to make an impact.

  • Comment number 81.

    10 days ago, beating Slovenia was merely the icing on the cake for this group of players as we strolled through the easiest of the 8 groups as imperious winners, sending out signals of intent to our rivals.

    Now, we have the sickening sight of a result that was a formality 10 days ago being treated as though its a cathartic moment for English football.

    I am English, and will support any of our sportsmen to the hilt bar our footballers. Why ?

    The argument is that we have avoided a root and branch reform of our game by beating a nation of 2 million inhabitants. Thats a relief for those in charge

    We have avoided the humiliation of the French. Thats the biggest relief for the players

    Hang on one moment, these pampered so called world class superstars have appalled the country in the last 10 days and now we are supposed to be thankful that they beat Slovenia.

    Someone in the press wrote today that Capello has got his reputation back, after losing it for 2 games !!!!!!!!!!!!! Typical press who are one of the main problems with English football.

    Lets get one thing straight, these players beat Germany, Argentina, Spain and Brazil, I will laud them but get ready for the letdown on Sunday when no doubt it will be a valiant defeat and they will return home as heroes !!!!!! Fans and press, you are the problem with English football, you feed the egos of players who are not good enough.

    Listen to Chris Waddle, he has said the same.

    If the Gerrards, the Lampards, et al were as good as they were cracked up to be, let them play abroad as Waddle did in France, instead of being within the comfort zone of playing here in teams of foreigners. If Gerrard and Lampaard are world class at club level, and it must be true because we hear the words so often we are brainwashed, surely they should be able to do that at international level ?

    If England go out on Sunday, the fact that they have gone 1 game more than the 1st round, would that justify putting off a root and branch reform of the game ? Would going out in the Q/F to Argentina, justify putting off a root and branch reform ? No,it does not but when there are too many vested interests, whats good for the game wont be good for a lot of vested interests in the long term so it wont happen.

    Sickening.


  • Comment number 82.

    I think England is in trouble. All of this because England beat lowely Solvenia by one goal? It is amazing!!! I am reading articles and watching TV where pundits are saying England has regained its confidence and the team has an excellent chance of moving to the finals. I don't think so. This overreaction indicates a problem still exists. Germany is no Solvenia, Ehgland or Algeria. England needs to bring its A game on Sunday.

  • Comment number 83.

    59. At 08:24am on 24 Jun 2010, AScottishGooner wrote:

    "I have done a lot of England bashing over the past few weeks. I admit now that it is a bit sad.

    Lets put things in perspective though please, England have done the minimum required to qualify from an easy group.

    Please dont get carried away because thats the reason the haters (like me admittedly) get nasty.

    Peace

    ASG"

    You admit you're sad we're through, accuse us of getting carried away without providing any evidence that we are, and then claim your admitted nastiness is only provoked by our over-optimism. Decided to get in a pre-emptive strike, just in case?

  • Comment number 84.

    It seems that our LIKELY route to a final if we were to reach it would be Germany, Argentina, Spain, Brazil - and that actually pleases me.

    I would much prefer to face stiff opposition all the way through the knockout stages than if we were to play Ghana and Uruguay before the big tests. It means that if we are to progress past Germany, we, probably, will have put in a big performance to do so and will be sharp. I'm never confident when we play weakER sides in the early knockouts, only to face a stiffer test and not be ready.

    Bring on the Germans. They look good but seem to lose themselves a little at the back so I think it will be an entertaining game. I think against the bigger sides, Rooney will play better because the bigger sides won't be as likely to double up marking and set out with such a strong mentality to defend against him.

    Atmosphere around the country was excellent yesterday and long may it continue.

  • Comment number 85.

    What was the fuss about Joe Cole all about? He was like a slow SWP.

    "The man who prides himself on being impervious to pressure showed he is as vulnerable as anyone ..."
    Capello never said anything of the sort. The usual nonsense from McNulty, Chief Dumbing Down Officer for BBC Sport.

  • Comment number 86.

    It was a very good performance from England, especially given the pressure and circumstances. I agree with many on this board that Ashley Cole shuld be given credit for his performance, he was also one of the only players who looked alive against Algeria.
    The USAs late goal winning them the group has sent us down a more difficult route on paper, ie Germany and then possibly Argentina or Mexico, but Ghana wouldnt have been easy to beat and neither would Uruguay or Korea.
    Every game will be difficult, but at least we wont have the pressure of knowing that even a draw will send us out (not without extra time and penalties anyway), which was the situation yesterday. I was also impressed to see us run down the added time down effectively, something I have never seen an England team do before

  • Comment number 87.

    Phil, I pretty much agree with all your player ratings (apart from maybe A.Cole deserving 7?). It wasn't a fantastic performance as nerves were still on edge until the final whistle but it got the job done and apart from some great saves by the Slovenian keeper the score could have looked more comfortable. Was a bit worried Capello decided to use J.Cole as a direct replacement for Rooney (don't think he will ever play him wide left following J.Terry's comments?). Would have been better to stick him wide left and move Gerrard further forward but no harm done.

    Hope Germany aren't built up too much in next few days and I firmly believe Mexico will be no pushover for Argentina in the other game. Playing Ghana in Rustenburg could have been more tricky - being the last African survivors and having to play on same pitch as R.Green's howler again.

  • Comment number 88.

    A good performance - not sure about that to be honest, but a win is a win!
    However, as one of my friends said last night, USA may not have knocked England's World Cup hopes with the draw a week ago, but they sure as heck have done so with their win last night.
    Last 16 exit again I am afraid and this will mean that we have gone backwards in the last 4 years - not qualifying for the Euros and going out a round earlier than in 2006 in the World Cup.
    Germany are far too well organised and will have Klose back from suspension - they will win with some ease unless they misfire and England move up at least two notches.
    We must leave Rooney out - he has done next to nothing in the tournament and will get sent off for sure in this one and we cannot afford to play with 10 men against Germany.
    However, now there is nothing to lose and so I am more than happy to be proved wrong.

  • Comment number 89.

    Bizarrely I am happy England finished second in the group.

    In my opinion Brazil are clearly the best side in world football, and that has been shown in the tournament to date. Also Brazil have a hoodoo over England in a way only Italy can claim, and with Capello as coach Italy dont bother me.

    Our record against Brazil since 1990 is as follows:
    P9 W1 D4 L4
    Our only win by the way was a home friendly in 1990, so 20 years ago.

    Compare that against other top sides which are serious contendors. (results 1990 to now)

    Argentina P5 W2 D3 L0 (one draw was lost on pens)
    Holland P9 W1 D6 L2
    Germany P9 W3 D2 L4 (2 draws both lost on pens)
    Spain P6 W2 D1 L3 (1 draw won on pens)
    Italy P6 W1 D1 L4
    Portugal P7 W1 D5 L1 (1 draw lost on pens)

    So what this tells us is our win ratio is actually highest against germany and argentina out of any of our top 8 rivals, and those are our opponents to beat in order to reach the semi final. Argentina have not beaten us since 1986, and Germany will not be enthralled at having to play england so early on.

    We play best in high tempo games, and these fixtures will be far better to force us to play our game, than ghana or uruguay. Also if we are to take on Brazil we will do so far more confidently if along the way we have defeated two of our oldest footballing enemies. (germany & diego maradona) mwhahahahahahaha

  • Comment number 90.

    @ #82 boweigo - do you really believe that it is impossible to regain confidence against inferior opposition? I would say the opposite, it's almost impossible to regain confidence against superior opposition.

    The only person who's mentioned the final is Fabio, who in my view has every right to express confidence in his players. This doesn't equate to over-confidence by the entire nation, or even by Capello himself.

    For all of the nay-sayers' bleating, I can see little evidence of over-reaction to the victory. But as for standing a chance against equally misfiring Germany, of course we stand a chance. And your saying otherwise just shows you're the biased one, not the supposedly "over-confident" English that you are at such pains to belittle!

  • Comment number 91.

    England team finally put in some effort and with more clinical finishing could have won 3-0. Sadly it was just 1-0 against a very poor Slovenia. Agree with many of Phil`s comments but if anything I think the ratings given are too high.Gerrard is England`s best player by a country mile. The whole team need to play to that level if they`re going to overcome Germany. I don`t see that happening but be glad to be proved wrong.

  • Comment number 92.

    Lampard was aweful as usual. Don't get me wrong, I think he's a great player for Chelsea, but for some reason he just cannot do it in an England shirt.

    Good to see the hunger back in the team again...!

  • Comment number 93.

    when i saw upson in for dawson i was worried, but upson didnt do bad and showed his worth. defeo great as he always is for tottenham and heskey shouldnt play another minute this tournment. rooney and lampard so talented but didnt show it and the rest of the team put in a passionate performance which we need to beat the germans!

  • Comment number 94.

    WOW!!!! England beat a poor Slovenia team and finish second in one of the weakest groups and now they have turned over a new leaf and have a chance of winning the competion. This is just typical of the English media, Milner was the best player on the pitch by a mile, Lampard was the worst by a mile, for Englan to have a realistic chance of beating the German's they need Gerrard and Barry in the middle with Milner and Cole down the flanks. I still think they should have brought Jagielka who would have been brilliant at the back for them. The German keeper looked suspect on crosses last night so maybe bringing in Crouch for Rooney who just isn't at himself. I know he one of the best players in the competition but Capello said he would pick players on form and he just is doing the business at the moment. With Klose back for Germany i think JT will struggle along with Upson and Podolski could expose the defensive flaws in Johnson's game. I hope it is a cracking match and i predict a 2-0 win for the Germans and the press to be calling for Capello's head on Monday morning and looking Woy Hodgeson to take over at the Helm.

  • Comment number 95.

    What ever you think about beckenbauer's comments about engalnd earlier in the tournanment, it has to make this clash more spicy (as if England/Germany isn't spicy enough).
    Personally, I cant wait to give them a beating and shut him up.
    I live in hope, good german team though!!

  • Comment number 96.

    Can't disagree too much with your ratings Phil, except JT deserves a nine. Okay he did give the ball away a few times but more than made up for it with a top display in the second half. His powerful header from the back post deserved better, but his defensive display showed real guts and character.
    I, along with most of the England fans, owe David 'Calmaty' (deliberate misspelling) James a massive apology. What a difference having a goalkeeper that was assured and confident. Apart from one under pressure punch, he was flawless on a very flawed pitch. Would have prefered Hart (best of a average bunch) from the outset but we must stick with James now.
    I still wish that we had taken Ashley Young because his crossing ability from the left is being missed. Although he did well, Gerrard should not be on the left as I find it incredible that England's captain is playing out of position. Can you really imagine Zindane, Beckenbauer or Maldini playing out of position? No, thought not. That said, England crossed into the box better than any team I have seen so far, which isn't difficult, but still needs big improvement. Set pieces and crossing in general have been a major disappointment in this WC.
    Most of my other observations have been covered elsewhere but I do agree that Crouch should have come on instead of Heskey. If we are to go on and reach the latter stages of this competition, Heskey needs a training ground injury to make him unavailable (sorry Emile but you wouldn't make the N. Korea side).
    So we missed the opportunity to progress in the easier half of the draw - so what! From here on out it will be the team that performs best on the day that will go through and England can beat (or be beaten) by anyone left in the competition. Playing and beating Germany, Argentina, Holland then Brasil in the final would be a well deserved victory. Will they do it? Probably not, but anyone who says they can't, understands very little about football or never saw Greece and Denmark win the Euro.

  • Comment number 97.

    Personally I was happy with the display and thought 1-0 made it seem harder than it was. At the end of the day though, 1-0 or 7-0 a win is a win.

    I thought we actually played as a team, and therefore no-one gets my man of the match, they all get it. A much more 'English' performance with occasional glimpses of flair, something to build on, and finally reasons to be cautiously happy.

    I'm probably in a minority, but I think if we play like that then we shouldn't fear the Germans.

    (Argentina are a different proposition though if we do get through. Then probably Spain or Portugal... Hmmm then again if we can get through that lot, I doubt many would say we don't deserve to win it!! Am amazed at how lopsided the draw has made this World cup now..)

  • Comment number 98.

    Ashley Cole - 6?

    Were you watching the same match as everyone else Phil?

  • Comment number 99.

    I see you are still talking up your own rumours about disent. Disent which never was. I see you are still blaming Green for the USA result when he in fact Also saved your bacon. The only reason he is vindicated by putting James in Goal is that none of the opposition have had a decent shot on target.
    England were poor finishers yesterday you will need to show a lot more than that against the Germans, Ghana are not great scorers but they opened the Germans time and time and time again. I think this match on Sunday is your last.

  • Comment number 100.

    I was at the game yesterday. I'd agree with most of Phil's ratings. However, I'd definitely rate Ashley Cole higher. England were never threatened on his side. I really think he is one of the few English players that is amongst the best in his position. Would like to see him be more aggressive like he has been for Chelsea this season.

    Gareth Barry had a terrible game. He seemed to end up on the right side the whole time, covering with Milner and Johnson getting forward. As a left footed player he seemed to struggle there. I'm not sure what Carrick's form or fitness is like, but wouldn't he be a better alternative?

    Having watched both England and Germany at this WC, I think we're in for a cracking game. Germany's young midfield really impressed me when I watched them. I think England played better as a team than Germany, but it could all come down to a little bit of luck (and not letting Klose get in the game).

 

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