Who ya got?
After two disappointing England performances it is crunch time for Fabio Capello and his squad with this game deciding if they are to stay on at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ or rather return home on Thursday with their tails between their legs. Slovenia are in a far healthier position and know that a draw will be enough to carry them into the knockout rounds for the first time at a major tournament.
Slovenia-England, Group C, Port Elizabeth, 16.00 (local time)
Slovenia were not expected to create major waves at this tournament but so assuredly have they gone about their business that they find themselves in a position to create history for their country. England, on the other hand, are trying to avoid history because you have to go all the way back to 1958 for the last time they failed to advance from the initial group phase of a FIFA World Cup in which they were participating.
In only their second FIFA World Cup, Slovenia gained new admirers with a competent dismissal of Algeria in their first game. They then put themselves in with a great chance of taking maximum points from two games when they led USA 2-0 only to be rocked by the force of the Americans' recovery which earned them a point.
England first delighted their supporters by taking an early lead in Rustenburg against USA but then saw two points slip through goalkeeper Robert Green's fingers as he failed to hold onto Clint Dempsey's speculative shot from outside the area. It seemed a given that they would then make amends against Algeria but they produced an even more lacklustre performance with the African side having the better of a 0-0 draw. England need to win to progress. If they draw they can progress if USA-Algeria also ends in a draw in which case goals scored will be the deciding factor.
Players to watch
Milivoje Novakovic v John Terry
Slovenia's leading scorer in qualifying, Milivoje Novakovic is without a goal to his name so far at South Africa 2010 and, with only a single shot in two games, he will be anxious to get off the mark at the third time of asking. Novakovic will do battle with John Terry who finds himself with a third different central defensive partner at this tournament following injury to Ledley King and the suspension of Jamie Carragher.
That is one problem Terry has to deal with. The other is the controversy that has submerged him since the draw with Algeria and his subsequent comments that he intented to initiate a team discussion with Capello about where England were going wrong. In the end it was Capello who reasserted his authority over his former captain, leaving a contrite Terry to apologise to him and the squad.
1 - the number of times England have been defeated in their third and final match in the initial group phase. They lost 1-0 to Spain in 1950.
What they said
“The players need to help each other out, and be self-confident, brave and determined. If they do that, then I’m sure we’ll see another big, big show – a show that will make Slovenia and its players into household names around the world," Matjaz Kek, Slovenia coach
"I don't understand why during a game we don't change the rhythm or the speed. We are really slow. At this World Cup if you don't run or press or fight it is difficult to go forward," Fabio Capello, England coach
Voice of the fans
"The problem with all Slavic nations, they tend to come to the edge of something big only to fail at the last moment and then they lament the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. This Slovenian team, however, is different." FIFA.com user Jahbulon (Slovenia)
It's the million-dollar question for England supporters: can they put all that has transpired over the last few days behind them and bring their performance levels back to what is expected of them? Or are they stuck in a trough of poor form?