The Cup Running Over

June 17, 2010 6:30 PM

Friday Preview: The US Makes Its 2nd Appearance: Will Robert Green?

It's the US group -- plus one decent game in Group D featuring the team that looked the best in the first round of games -- Germany. In the order of games played:


Yes, Germany has been one of the class acts of the tournament so far but Serbia is underrated -- even though it lost to Ghana in the opener 1-0. The problem for the Serbs is that even though their defense is superb, they struggle to score as their strikers aren't very good, at least for this national team. Their best chance is to convert a free kick and hold out against the Germans. The problem is that at this point even a draw won't do Serbia much good -- it has to win to remain alive in the group, which will dictate taking chances if the game remains tied, say, 60 minutes in. And Germany, as we've learned, may be the hardest team to shut out in South Africa.


We and Jonathan Wilson have not been alone in noting that these two teams are mirror images of one another. One is a huge, boastful country; the other small and self-effacing. The Americans play offense; the Slovenians concentrate on defense. The Americans tend to score early and try to hold on; the Slovenians tend to score almost all their goals towards the ends of halves and games. All of this dictates a compelling tactical struggle that might be closer than anyone in the US expects. If the US can get off to a swift start, it will likely wear down the Slovenians and win. But if this game is tied at, say, the 40 minute mark, or the 75-minute mark, watch out. At altitude, the Slovenians have the style to make the U.S. look very awkward and an upset is not out of the question, especially if American keeper Tim Howard is still hobbling.

How big will Robert Green be if he plays goal again for England?


We've thought all along that England is overrated but it's not so overrated that it shouldn't beat Algeria fairly decisively. The return of the injured Gareth Barry to midfield will help the English (he played more minutes in the qualifiers than anyone else on Capello's squad) both in terms of anchoring the midfield defensively, and freeing Steven Gerrard to get forward more. Even the return of Robert Green to goal -- if he does -- shouldn't be enough to spoil an English party since the Algerians have great trouble scoring, and the Algerians have their own problems in net with Faouzi Chaouchi, who won the Robert Green impersonator award in its first game against Slovenia.  Put it this way: If England can't put Algeria away, it's looking at a first-round exit, and in this group, that really is a dire performance.

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