Group C Preview: Can the United States Erase their 2006 Memories, and Advance with England?
The group that means the most to fans in the United States is Group C as Sam’s Army tries to put the misery of four years ago well into the past. There were a few surprising roster moves by coach Bob Bradley (the inclusion of Robbie Findley and exclusion of Brian Ching for starters), but the team will only go as far as their star trio of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Joze Altidore take then. The U.S. scored all of two goals during the 2006 event in Germany, so they’ll need to vastly improve on that if they want to advance to the second round. The defense is currently in question, as well, with Oguchi Onyewu not looking ready to play a full 90 minutes. England sits as the seeded team in the group and should have the form to advance rather easily. Rio Ferdinand’s injury won’t be that big of a deal, as he was overrated anyway and John Terry is the irreplaceable part of that defensive duo.
Algeria needed to win in a tie-breaking playoff in qualifying just to advance to main event, but they should not be underestimated. Striker Rafik Saifi is by far the oldest member of the team, but his 18 goals for his country are six times greater than any other striker’s total. Slovenia rounds out the group and I’ll predict that they don’t make it out of South Africa with a victory. Slovenia had a tremendous defensive record in qualifying, but the talent level in that group left something to be desired.
While it’s nice to see that the boys at JPMorgan picking England to win the World Cup (with penalty shootout victories in the Semifinals and Finals, no less), it’s realistically hard to envision that happening this year. While at least one person has said that Wayne Rooney’s creativity makes him the best type of player England could bring to a World Cup, England’s success will be determined by those around the rambunctious star. Midfielders Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have never seemed to gel while playing together for England, so I’m not sure that this year will be any different. Aaron Lennon will have to be a threat on the wing to prevent teams from falling into the middle of the field to defend England. Should they win the group, which most are expecting them to do, they’ll likely face an imminently beatable Serbia in the round of 16. Playing a France team that’s seen its better days in the quarterfinals, England could easily slip into the last four. From there it will get tough and they’ll likely falter. Given England’s history, they might even fall down earlier than that…
Algeria should feel very comfortable playing in South Africa as they’ve been there previously in qualification and their fans will likely make the trip. Both England and the U.S. has shown a penchant for coming up short in their history, so there might be the opportunity for Algeria to sneak through. They’ll be the underdog against both England and the U.S., so they won’t be feeling the pressure. The U.S. game is the last game of the group stage, so there could be added pressure on them to win or risk being sent home early at the hands of the Yanks.
Player to Watch
Wayne Rooney. Rooney has the ability to dazzle with his bulldog nature, but his fiery attitude also gets him into trouble with the referees. He’ll have to harness the passion as he’s the only dependable scoring threat on the England roster. He’s got the speed to cut up the slower U.S. central defenders and should wreak havoc in the group stage.
Because the battle for the second spot in Group C is expected to be so tight, I suggest staying away from betting a lot in this group. That being said, here are some suggestions if you feel like risking it:
USA -140 to advance from group play
Clint Dempsey +400 to lead the United States in scoring
England-United States-Algeria-Slovenia +360 to be the order of finish in Group B