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Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 13



Scored early and proceeded to defend their lead. Critics would call it suffocating the opposition and negative football while fans and sympathisers would refer to bravery and necessity. In reality it was a little bit of both, but the end result sees England through to the last sixteen, and the preceding results largely cast aside.

Fabio Capello’s post-match interview painted the picture of an emphatic Three Lions victory but the reality is somewhat different. While this was certainly an improvement for England, it was far from convincing. Slovenia barely turned up while Capello’s men were content to cancel out any opposing threat and retain their slim lead.

Following a week of embarrassment, mutiny and knee-jerk pessimism, England will be delighted to bring some positivity to their camp, but the threat of the old enemy awaits them on Sunday, and the Germans, like sharks, will smell blood in the water.

James Milner

Answered his critics by setting up the decisive goal and lived up to the task presented to him. Not  especially outstanding but solid, which was enough on this occasion.


It would probably have been brought to court had the Americans not gone through. As it turned out they end up top of the group and will avoid Germany in the second round. It was nearly a very different story but for Landon Donovan’s late rescue.

Woodwork smashed, open goals missed and another perfectly valid goal disallowed, it seemed luck was against the good ol’ US of A, but good things come to those who wait and while Donovan’s winner was very much a final act twist, it was no less deserved. The resulting pile-up personified the team spirit that has been present throughout, and their presence in the final sixteen is very much welcome.

Landon Donovan

One wonders where the Americans would be without the invention and determination of the man they affectionately refer to as “LD”. While he may have faltered when previously employed in Europe, his brief stint at Everton at the close of last season, combined with his predatory prowess at South Africa 2010 has showed that Donovan has matured and developed into an exceptional footballer, capable of winning big games. His tears in the post-match interview were as genuine as his attitude throughout.


While their opponents put up a decent fight, the Germans had the edge. It’s been a fairly interesting campaign thus far for Joachim Lowe’s young team. The initial demolition of Australia sent everyone running scared, until Serbia got lucky and exposed weaknesses in the process. The victory over Ghana wasn’t convincing enough to cement Germany as unstoppable, but they should fancy themselves against England, who have had plenty of problems of their own. It remains to be seen just how far this youthful team can go, but the early signs are promising.

The ghosts of Bierhoff and Ballack do not seem to hang over the team and as such an attacking threat is ever present. It seems instinctual to associate Germany with rigid and dull football but it has anything but so far. Hopefully it shall continue.


While they may have gotten lucky, they showed enough spirit and conviction to deserve their spot in the second round.


Wayne Rooney

Showed signs of improvement but still way off his best. His frustration was intensified when the unthinkable happened and Fabio Capello substituted him for Joe Cole.


Failed to turn up for their most important game.

Samir Handanovic and Lounes Gaouaoui

Two goalkeepers who really don’t deserve to be going home.

Jozy Altidore

Sleepless nights ahead for the American striker following the miss of the tournament.

Mark Lawrenson and anyone who had the misfortunate to listen to him

Awful. Just awful. It’s hardly a new and groundbreaking observation but seriously, Lawro has to be the worst commentator/analyst/pundit in the business. From his disgraceful bias to his painfully unfunny one-liners, I wanted to stick large knives through my eardrums the more he bleated on. Vuvuzelas are more appealing.


England qualify as runners up following defeat of Slovenia

England 1-0 Slovenia

England qualified for the Round of 16 with a 1-0 victory over Slovenia. However, the United States’ late goal against Algeria means that England finish as runners up and potentially face a difficult Second Round game against Germany in Bloemfontein.

England came into today’s game knowing that they needed to win to secure passage from a group which had been taken too lightly by England.

Both sides started edgily. There were some poor defensive clearances from Glen Johnson, Matthew Upson for England and Cesar for Slovenia.

England were looking very nervous in the opening minutes. John Terry’s backpass giving Matthew Upson a moment of distress.

Slovenia, despite the unprecedentedly high stakes, were the brighter side in the opening ten minutes. Valter Birsa, Slovenia’s standout performer in the tournament, embarked on a series of mazy runs into the England half while his teammates Jovanovic and Kirm were stringing passes together and causing problems for England’s fullbacks.

England eventually settled. Frank Lampard attempted a free-kick from all of 35 yards. The infamous Jabulani changed direction twice before being secured by Samir Handanovic.

Ljubijankic, of KAA Gent, had a great chance to heap further pressure on Fabio Capello’s unimpressive side but was denied by a terrific saving block by John Terry.

James Milner and Jermain Defoe had been brought into the starting line up by Fabio Capello in place of Aaron Lennon and Emile Heskey. The pair justified their selection by combining to give England the lead. Milner, who had been dropped by Fabio Capello for the 0-0 draw with Algeria, supplying the cross for Jermain Defoe who shinned the ball towards goal. Samir Handanovic had been performing superbly for Slovenia but was unable to keep Defoe’s volley out.

The goal seemed to settle England appeared to settle England’s fragile nerves. As it stood England would progress at the head of the Group C table with the Slovenians scraping through as runners up ahead of the United States who were being held 0-0 by Algeria.

Another cross nearly brought England’s second. Handanovic came a long way to palm the swinging pass away but his parry fell only as far as Frank Lampard. The Chelsea midfielder, who had failed to reproduce his club form for his national side, failed to hit the target.

England were keen to press their advantage. Jermain Defoe’s low shot from just outside the penalty area was blocked by Handanovic. Wayne Rooney collected the loose ball and sent a delicate pass across the penalty area for Steven Gerrard. The England captain was unable to convert, as the Udinese goalkeeper managed to keep the ball from crossing the line.

It appeared that Slovenia were finally succumbing to the pressure of the occassion. The quick passing and movement from their earlier games against Algeria and the United States had deserted them as they struggled to control possession. England continued to threaten towards the end of the half but were unable to add to their tally.

Jermain Defoe had a glorious opportunity to score his second goal within forty seconds of the start of the second half. A quickly taken corner fell to the Tottenham Hotspur striker, but Defoe was only able to flick the ball wide with the outside of his boot.

Despite a dramatic deterioration in their form, Slovenia were still posing a threat to England. A terrific inswinging free-kick from Birsa was fisted away by David James. The slightest touch from the flailing right foot of Jovanovic would surely have leveled the game.

Another good delivery from Birsa was caught by David James as Slovenia began to edge back into the match.

John Terry, whose feeble attempt at instigating a squad revolt against Fabio Capello was rebuked by the former Real Madrid manager, came close from a corner. The Chelsea captain thumped a challenging header at Samir Handanovic from Steven Gerrard’s corner.

Wayne Rooney had yet to impress at the World Cup and was discouragingly out of form again this afternoon. The Manchester United striker, with ample time and space, was one-on-one with Handanovic but his poor control and scuffed shot allowed the goalkeeper to glance his shot onto the post. Rooney was later replaced by fan favourite Joe Cole. England’s talisman trudged off the field looking very much like a player short of confidence and the requisite match fitness to excel at a World Cup.

After Rooney’s dismal failure in front of goal England reverted to the same poor football that had shrouded their displays against the United States and Algeria. Long punts up the field from David James were England’s predominant attacking threat from the sixtieth minute onwards.

Slovenia themselves were relatively unthreatening, each foray into England territory was halted by a wayward pass or a poor control. As the scoreboard in Port Elizabeth ticked towards the ninetieth minute, England seemed desperate to cling on to their lead. Emile Heskey was introduced with the sole purpose of reproducing his lumbering attack-quashing form in the defensive third.

Slovenia sent more crosses into the England penalty area but were denied by Matthew Upson and David James, England hung on to secure safe passage to the last sixteen. The players and coaching staff stormed the pitch where excited celebrations followed a n unimpressive victory over a mediocre opponent.

If England are to reach the final, as their optimistic manager predicts, they will need drastic improvement in terms of ball retention and passing speed. As England’s players huddled on the pitch, news filtered through from Pretoria that Landon Donovan had rescued the United States with a stoppage time winner. The goal has severe implications for England’s ambitions. The United States now progress as group winners with the Three Lions facing a monumental task in the Second Round, should Germany beat Ghana tonight.

Fabio Capello expressed his pride in his players’ performances after the final whistle and  about how his side played with ‘freedom’. The gushing of a certain gushing member of the British media referred to the win as being ‘more like the England we know.’ If this is the England we can expect in the knockout stages then the quest to end the forty-four year wait for World Cup glory will soon become forty-eight.

Guest Blog: The Lowdown on Slovenia

In his latest squad profile veteran blogger and journalist with DCU’s College View, Niall Farrell details a talented and ambitious Slovenian squad,  a team making their second finals appearance in three attempts.


“Relative unknowns” is the term normally used to refer to the Slovenian national team. In a team which relies on mostly players from the lesser lights in the English, German and Italian leagues, household names are few and far between.

Underneath this relative anonymity lies a team with a strong spine. Quality, diligence and perseverance are the attributes which define this Slovenian team.

With a population of just under two million, Slovenia are one of the smaller nations to have qualified for the 2010 World Cup.

Slovenia were the sole unseeded team to emerge from the UEFA playoff system, defeating a strong Russian team after beating the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Poland to second spot (behind Slovakia in first).

Off-the-pitch problems have dogged Slovenia’s preparation, as a row over tournament bonuses threatens to escalate.

Organisation is key in the Slovenian camp, with coach Matjas Kek prizing a strong work ethic in his team. Normally Slovenia play with a flat 4-4-2 formation, with strikers Dedic and Novakovic forming an effective partnership up front. Dedic will commonly drift off to just behind Novakovic, creating space for his strike partner.

The aforementioned Dedic and Novakovic, of Bochum and Koln respectively, form the fulcrum of the Slovenian threat.

West Brom’s Robert Koren is used as an attacking central midfielder, with holding midfielder Aleksandr Radosavljevic often deployed alongside Koren.

Winger Valter Birsa is highly rated in Ligue 1 with Auxerre and poses a real threat down the left flank.

The other flank is usually occupied by Wisla Krakow’s Andraz Kirm, although the right side of midfield will be contested by both Mirnes Sisic of Larissa and Dalibor Stefanovic of Vitess Arnhem.

The defensive effort is coordinated by the excellent Samir Handanovic in goal. Handanovic has cemented his place as No.1 at Udinese in recent years and marshals his defence with authority.

Handanovic’s deputy will be his cousin Jasmin, who also plays in Italy with Mantova.

Bostjan Cesar of Grenoble is the leading centre-back in the Slovene back four and is partnered by either Matej Mavric of Koblenz or Marko Suler of Gent.

Miso Brecko is regarded as one of the most underrated full backs in the Bundesliga and will start at left back. Bojan Jokic has impressed while on loan at Chievo this season and should start on the other flank.

With a solid spine and capable backup in reserve, Slovenia are confident going into a difficult group.

England are favourites to top Group C, but the feeling in Slovenia is that they could challenge the USA and Algeria for the runner-up spot.

World Cup History

Slovenia have qualified for a World Cup just once since independence, in 2002. Their trip to Japan and Korea was characterised by dissent, as star player Zlatko Zahovic famously rowed with coach Srecko Katanec.

Zahovic was sent home by Katanec after Slovenia were defeated by Spain in their fist match.

Slovenia lost narrowly to South Africa and then to Paraguay  before returning home.

Slovenia failed to qualify in 2006, but the qualification for the 2010 tournament is being heralded by some as a swansong for the Slovenian “Golden Age’ of football.

The Coach

Matjas Kek had a distiguished playing career, both domestically with Maribor and in Austria with GAK Linz and Spittal/Drau.

Kek began his managerial career in 2000 with Maribor. In his time with The Violets, Kek won three Slovenian league titles and one Slovenian Cup before departing in 2006.

Before taking charge of the Slovenian national team in 2007, Kek managed the national under-15 and under-16 sides.

Star Player

Milivoje Novakovic

Novakovic is the third-highest international goalscorer in Slovenian history, with fourteen goals in thirty-seven appearances.

Currently with Koln in Germany, Novakovic earned his reputation as a ruthless goalscorer in Die Geißböcke’s promotion-winning season in 2008 when he netted twenty goals.

Previously to 2008, Novakovic was with Bulgaria’s Litex Lovech and several Austrian sides.

Novakovic was captain of Koln in 2008/2009 and scored another sixteen goals in their first season back in the Budesliga.

This season, Novakovic was involved in a dispute with Koln coach Zvonimir Soldo, but still starred as they finished thirteenth in the league.

One To Watch

Rene Krhin

Regarded as the ‘next big thing’ in Slovenian football, Krhin has broke into the Inter Milan first-team this season.

Krhin is a holding midfielder whose distribution and effective use of possession has been singled out for praise by Jose Mourinho.

Krhin may not play every match for Slovenia, but his inclusion in the Slovenian squad is a signal of things to come from this young midfielder.

Preliminary Squad:

Goalkeepers: Samir Handanovic (Udinese), Jasmin Handanovic (Mantova), Aleksander Seliga (Sparta Rotterdam), Jan Koprivec (Maribor).

Defenders: Bojan Jokic (Chievo), Marko Suler (Ghent), Bostjan Cesar (Grenoble), Branko Ilic (Lokomotiv Moscow), Matej Mavric (Koblenz), Dejan Kelhar (Cercle Brugge), Elvedin Dzinic (Maribor), Miso Brecko (Cologne), Aleksandar Rajcevic (Koper), Suad Filekovic (Maribor).

Midfielders: Andraz Kirm (Wisla Krakow), Andrej Komac (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Rene Krhin (Internazionale), Mirnes Sisic (Giannina), Darjan Matic (Rapid Bucharest), Dare Vrsic (Koper), Dalibor Stevanovic (Vitesse Arnhem), Robert Koren (West Bromwich Albion), Aleksander Radosavljevic (Larissa), Valter Birsa (Auxerre).

Strikers: Milivoje Novakovic (Cologne), Zlatko Dedic (VfL Bochum), Zlatan Ljubijankic (Ghent), Nejc Pecnik (Nacional), Miran Burgic (AIK), Tim Matavz (Groningen).